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Questioning the Validity of Agile in All Work Environments

· Agile Zone

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As a developer I have some fundamental beliefs about work, acquired through literature, that I shared, and as a team we tested, and with some success we now believe, as fact, to be a better than what came before. As we continue to learn, test and measure we become more and more sure that what we are doing is right so much so that we find ourselves criticising the way others outside our team work.

Our beliefs are roughly aligned with what most people that call themselves ‘Agile’ believe and I wonder if many others in the community are experiencing the same feelings.

Those outside our team (the business) are living in different worlds. By that I mean their purpose is different (to sell and bring in revenue), their environment is different (competitive) and this means that their assumptions and conclusions they draw are different.

As I move deeper into our world my understanding of the other world becomes increasingly limited, I have so little contact with business people relative to the almost continuous contact with the team that I am increasingly thinking of them as alien. I find many conversations baffling and their decisions and the way they are made seem irrational. This alienation is tinged with resentment caused by the suffering of our pre-agile days that we attribute externally although in reality I think we have always had the opportunity to change. Our Agile bubble is relatively safe and unthreatening, working with others who share the same virtuous values is easy to do. We have established a cocoon that protects from the pressures of business.

Yes, this is completely at odds with the original intention of continuous user collaboration in Agile and I’m sure many will be stamping our situation with the dreaded words “broken” but it seems to be an almost inevitable path and one which I think many others are experiencing. The admission that after 10 years we still need to focus more on doing the right thing (which requires user/business collaboration) as well as just doing it right seems to be evidence of that.

Many in the Agile world are trying to reconcile the different ways of working by sharing our deeply reinforced beliefs with the other worlders in the hope that they will be “saved”, but are our methods really relevant to their purpose and to their environment? Do we really know what works best in their context?

So what to do? Perhaps if we tried to understand each others environment, principles and beliefs that drive their way of working we could at least start finding ways to work more effectively together. Perhaps some of our experiences will influence how each other work but then perhaps the contexts are so different they won’t. But even if we continue to work differently it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to work effectively together. All we really need is understanding.

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Published at DZone with permission of Tom Howlett , DZone MVB .

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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