We do Agile, but not Scrum
I often hear people saw “we follow the Agile Methodology”, or “we don’t do Scrum but we do Agile”. As if it is a thing I should know about. If you have done this then please note, there is no such thing as the Agile Methodology. My husband describes it best. Agile is an abstract super class. It has no specific instantiation. For those of you who aren’t OO geeks, that means Agile is just a word which groups a number of approaches together, it is not a methodology in itself.
It’s a bit like saying I follow the Fad diet. There is no one defined diet call ‘The Fad’ (or at least I hope there isn’t). But there are a group of diets, which are referred to as fad diets. You can say I am on a fad diet, but not the Fad diet.
So what is agile then? 10 years ago a bunch of people (all men I’m afraid) got together and talked about what they were doing and what they had in common. Out of this came the Agile Manifesto. Some say they were surprised they even found anything in common. It was after this that the things they were doing started to be grouped together and called Agile (with a capital A). They didn’t sit there coming up with a single combined methodology; which brings me back to my point, there is no Agile Methodology.
You can be agile. You can try to follow the agile principles and manifesto. You can use one of the methods or approaches that are part of the Agile grouping: Scrum, XP, Crystal Clear, FDD, AUP, etc.
What I find people usually mean is that they like to think they are being progressive and working incrementally, but they don’t have the discipline to follow a formal method. I think it stems from the fact that most of the time before agile when we were doing ‘waterfall’ we actually weren’t following any kind of process at all. We made it us as we went along. There was no consistency of method, no actual principles applied, no discipline. Along came agile and we think we can do it, just by chopping our Gantt chart into 2 week phases.
So if you do “agile” ask yourself these questions:
- Why don’t you follow a recognised Agile method, like Scrum or XP?
- Which of the principles of the Agile Manifesto are part of your process, and are there any that aren’t?
- Does your two week phase end with working software that people can use, give feedback on and use to measure real progress?
- How do you ensure that your process is empirical, i.e. makes changes based on evidence?
I guarantee these questions might lead you to identifying some areas for improvement, and maybe you’ll decide to start following an actual agile method.
I might as well take this opportunity to mention all the other things that annoy me:
Scrum is not a methodology, it’s a framework. You can’t follow the Scrum methodology because there isn’t one.
SCRUM is not an acronym, it doesn’t stand for “Some Clever Really Useful Methodology” so you don’t need to spell it with capital letters. It is different from a rugby scrum though so you do capitalise the first letter.
ScrumMaster is actually one word, in camel case. Yes I promise it is.
Agile Project Manager is ….. well that’s a whole other blog post