Time for Agility to Truly Come of Age – Reflections on Agile 2008

August 15, 2008 — Posted by Al Shalloway

I attended the Agile 2008 conference again this year. As usual, it was filled with great sessions and great people. It's clear that Agile is becoming more mainstream and there are more variations of it as well. Both good things. Scrum seems to still be the most popular method followed, Kanban is becoming known and Lean may have hit a plateau. But a few trends I noticed from last year were still present. These are:

  • This conference is still almost as much about consultants as it is about customers.
  • Agile still seems to be focused on teams and projects
  • There is greater awareness that to deal with the enterprise, product portfolio management is necessary
  • Lean is becoming more prevalent
  • Test-Driven Development is becoming more widespread
  • Teams still come from the bottom up
  • There is still a rift between management and development teams
  • Creating solid process to assist management teams (a Lean foundational principle) is still slow to gain ground

We're evolving, but I'd say slowly, as I'll go into each of the items above a little. Now before I do, I want to be clear I do not intend to be negative on Agile or the community. But I believe the way to move forward is to look where we are missing – not just where we are doing well. Many consultants are saying what is right with Agile, so I see little purpose in exhorting that. But there is still much missing, and few people seem to be focusing on that.

Some things I am encouraged by is Bob Martin's calling for professionalism in the industry. The spreading of Kanban is another high point. Definitely not mainstream, but more widespread than I had thought. Tools are also becoming more prevalent – which I think is a good thing. Anyway, here are comments on these trends I mentioned.

This conference is still almost as much about consultants as it is about customers. I spent just as much networking with other consultants as talking to customers. This isn't a bad thing – just interesting. To be honest, however, one reason I like SQE's Agile Development Practices Conference better. Besides being more professionally run and not having an anti-vendor attitude (sorry for short rant) I prefer being surrounded more by people trying to adopt agility than people trying to help them (no worries, still plenty of consultants there too).

Agile still seems to be focused on teams and projects. Scrum is still identified as the most common Agile methodology. While I am still a strong proponent of Scrum I am seeing and agreeing with many people's attitude that Scrum is a good way to begin doing Agile, but that more advanced methods are necessary (Kanban being one and Scrum being guided by Lean).

There is greater awareness that to deal with the enterprise, product portfolio management is necessary. Clearly what you work on is more important than on how well you work on it. As Agile has spread to enterprises, this is becoming very apparent to many people adopting it.

Lean is becoming more prevalent. More and more people are talking about Lean. I admit to being a little skeptical about people truly wanting to adopt it. Lean is more attitude and paradigm than practices. I suspect this is somewhat of a jumping on the bandwagon – but it's still a good thing. Also, as Kanban rises in prominence, Lean will go with it as Kanban is totally a manifestation of Lean principles.

Test-Driven Development is becoming more widespread. This is excellent, but requires a shift in thinking as well. See my earlier blog Why Test-Driven Development Really Isn't Test First. It's great that TDD is rising in prominence because I have long believe technical skills have been somewhat ignored in many teams' adoption of Scrum. Now, however, we need to focus more on Acceptance Test-Driven Development (again, see my blog) than in the more prominent Unit-TDD.

Teams still come from the bottom up. I get asked by many many people how to keep the big picture in mind while working on stories. The problem is you shouldn't be starting with stories. We're in the process of writing more and more on this. In fact, I'm giving a webinar on it as part of our Scrum# offering.

There is still a rift between management and development teams. The industry has been in a pendulum swing for almost 40 years. Too much process, not enough. Command and control, no management. I have seen little improvement here except for executives understanding this needs to change.

Creating solid process to assist management teams (a Lean foundational principle) is still slow to gain ground. This somewhat parallels my comment above.

Summary

Overall, we're moving in the right direction. I wish we could move faster, but then, I've been called impatient more than once.

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.



        

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