Is your Agile Transformation Fragile?

Most Bank’s Agile Journey is like “Breaking the pillars hoping roof will levitate”

A lot of hoohaa has been created around Agile methodologies, mapping customer journeys, documenting company’s agile journeys, looking at scaled, of full blown agile approaches. You meet people from Agile community and the excitement, the various approaches, the stellar examples of Google, Spotify, Facebook, Microsoft amaze you and like charmed mice (Project management Professionals) follow the Agile Pied Piper to the river of doom.

We need to understand, the traditional project management practices were hones, pressed, tested and stood against the challenges of time to come out with that they are today. Yes, there are limitations to such practices and hence was the effort to identify an alternate approach that works in a relatively different environment than the traditional scenarios, and Agile Manifesto came to existence. Those who don’t know the history of Agile, one has to step back and understand the changing

The reason of a strong push to identify something fast was to break the monstrous long development cycles put in place by various IT departments of the companies, to add or enhance any IT system put in place. Time to market was terrible and no one envisaged how the product will look like a patchy enhancement job. There were few vendors in the market who used to build Enterprise systems and all existing systems were monolithic in nature. Enterprise software was a scary and giant endeavor.

That culture was getting challenged by newer programming paradigms and better technological solutions. Extreme Programming was the thing everyone was raving about. In-fact the origins of the Agile Alliance could be attributed to a retreat held for various leaders in the Extreme Programming community in the Spring of 2000. A bunch of active XPers were invited to the rural part of Oregon to discuss various issues in XP. Also invited were a number of people who were interested but separate to XP: such as Alistair Cockburn, Jim Highsmith, and Dave Thomas.

At the meeting the relationship between XP and other methods of a similar ilk was discussed- at the time referred to as Lightweight Methods. It was agreed that XP was best as a specific process and was also agreed that there was a lot of common ground between XP and some of these other methods, because of this it was attempted to put together a meeting of people interested in this broader range of methods.

A wide range of people were contacted, and after much discussion it was settled on a meeting at Snowbird Utah from February 11-13 2001. Several of the people who were keen to come couldn’t make it – in the end those that did were the 17 whose names appear on the manifesto.

Why I highlighted the relevance of this specific history. We pin the entire hopes of the future software industry and projects to Agile because 17 of the attendees of Snowbird meeting as a bible to follow blindly and create a cult from it. Yes, Agile has fantastic merit and relevance but like any formidable approach it is not a silver bullet.

We have to make our base strong before we move to any new methodology or adopt a new mindset. It is easy to highlight the ill facets of an approach but we have to identify the strong features of the old approach and identify the trade-off we’re looking at.

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