Do You Know Agile as Well as You Think You Do?

Over at the blog Business Analyst Diaries, I came across a this post asking readers what their elevator pitch for agile would sound like. ItÂ’s a fun post, with a few stabs included in his original post and at least one game commenter chiming in, but I think it speaks to a few critical issues for the success of agile. First of all, agile is still neither widely nor clearly understood. And secondly, when it remains vaguely defined or misunderstood, its value isnÂ’t obvious to those who need it most. Hence thereÂ’s a need for a succinct sales pitch.

Let’s start with that first one. Why does agile’s meaning remains so elusive for so many people? In part, I’d argue that’s because agile has no clear definition. It’s an umbrella term applied to many concretely defined methods and frameworks, including XP, DSDM, and Scrum. While those subsets of agile all contain specific principles and processes, agile is simply shorthand for development that uses repeatable iterations to frequently inspect progress and adapt to it, an emphasis on teamwork and self-organization, and an approach to development that closely involves the customer. Still, even that definition leaves out some significant distinctions among the various methods. A better elevator speech would likely focus on what agile techniques yield: Namely, increased product quality, reduced cycle time, and customers who get the products they wanted. Still, that doesn’t really identify how these methods do what they do. For me, the solution is to narrow the scope to what you really want to “sell.” If it’s XP, focus on how XP’s engineering practices enable teams to control costs through a strict attention to quality. If it’s Scrum, talk about how its unique emphasis on self-organization empowers teams to make tough decisions that they believe in. But if you still want to give an elevator speech on agile, you might discover you’re not exactly sure what it is you’re selling…

Posted under Agile Methodology

This post was written by admin on January 13, 2009