Agile. Is there any more powerful word in the corporate dictionary? It conjures up images of cheetahs, ninjas, race cars, and superheros. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t want to be agile, nor anyone who claims not to embrace it.
A simple search on any job website will reveal just how widely agile has been adopted.
What is agile though? Surely everyone has read the manifesto right? I know I have. Maybe skimmed is a better word than read. Ok, I actually couldn’t be bothered reading an entire manifesto to explain the meaning of a word I already know.
The most important aspect of agile is the fact that it is not a ridgid set of rules, but more of a smorgasbord of principals that you can pick and choose from. Or at least that is how I was told agile worked, and since that idea fit well with my existing world view, I took it as fact, and am now repeating it on the internet. Because that is how I was told the internet worked... But this approach of taking what works and leaving what doesn’t is in line with the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do, a style of martial arts influenced by Bruce Lee. And have you ever met someone more agile than Bruce Lee? I thought not. So it must be true.
All of which is excellent for developers like me who actually just want to practice programming, mother^%$#er, because I take the bits of agile that I like and still claim, to the best of my knowledge, to be practicing agile in my weekly reports. Never let the truth get in the way of a good status report.
But I’m not the only one riding the agile wave without really knowing how to surf:
Agile’s death was an untimely one, brought about by years of neglect and abuse. The word Agile has come to be somewhat meaningless, which is why it’s time to move on from it. So many development teams for lack of a better word claim to be “Agile” and in some ways it’s often used as a way to excuse lack of visibility, lack of planning and by individuals who haven’t read the Agile Manifesto or don’t have a particularly deep experience shipping software at scale.
Still, I just can’t quite break free from agile’s grip. Every time I say the word those around me immediately think of speed, flexibility, responsiveness, power, and performance. Waterfall just does not evoke the same kind of emotions. In fact, the word “waterfall” is about as powerful as the word “shoelace”, or “cardboard”.
Agile is one of the select few business methodologies that have risen to the heights of corporate religion. Agile practitioners will talk for hours about the benefits of their way of life, while mocking all that came before it. Enterprises claim to embrace agile for fear of being left behind, while employees happily talk about being agile because they don’t really know any different.
To those that selected the word agile to describe a development process, I salute you. Try as I might, I can’t think of a single word that harder to argue against than agile. That word has captured the hearts and minds of anyone who sits at a keyboard for 8 hours a day, and it sounds just so damn fantastic in any enterprise settings.
Even though I don’t really know what it means, and everyone I talk to gives me a different answer, agile can count me as one of its disciples. Now if only those programming mother^%$#er guys would do a little focus testing with the C level executive types and be open to some rebranding...