As you probably know, the agile manifesto is purposely short on details and long on spirit. In fact, it is so short on details it fits very easily in a blog post:
Manifesto for Agile Software Development
We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.
Enterprises Need Rules
It’s a great set of values right? We seem to forget how simple and meaningful they are as we try to implement agile in the enterprise.
Maybe it’s because we are lazy or maybe it’s because we are just humans, but once agile is introduced everyone starts to get ideas about what should or shouldn’t be DONE, instead of what we should and shouldn’t VALUE. I believe you need some structure as soon as there are more than two people involved, but we should keep it as loose as possible and aligned with what we value — always know why you are doing something.
Be Culturally Adaptive
Recently, I was talking with John Ryan, an agile coach at BigVisible, about our implementation of agile and the rules we have in place to run our scrums. We also discussed how some people were dissatisfied with our agile adoption and the suggestions that our brand of agile wasn’t really agile. Asking for John’s opinion on our rules, he said (paraphrased), “Every company implements agile according to their own norms. I call it ‘culturally adaptive agile.’” He also said:
It is important to note that while we establish a foothold by respecting the existing culture, true transformation can’t happen unless we keep lifting the bar higher. The question then becomes, “which way is up?”; the answer is “toward the Agile values.” …adapt at first to find the right starting point and then keep challenging to grow.
As we chatted a light turned on in my head – people who get the most invested in agile are often focused on the rules we have rather than the values. If you lose site of the difference between ignoring those values and breaking one of the rules your organization set, zealotry is the result. And like other forms of zealotry, it alienates people and those people may begin to resist agile in general because zealots are so vehement in their support.
Be Enthusiastic But Climb Down
I cannot tell a lie, I sometimes get stuck on “the principle of the thing.” And when a shiny new idea comes along, I have been known to get a bit overly enthusiastic. Mixed together with the imperfections of the world the result can be zealotry. Passion makes the world go ‘round, but zealotry just turns everyone off.
So as for me – I resist. I take a deep breath. I climb down out of the Zealot Tree. You should too.