Agile – Principles over practice

I gave a short presentation in August at the Agile 2014 conference in Orlando titled “Agile – Principles over Practice”. I believe that prioritizing practices over principles is one of the key reasons for Agile failures. In this, and future blogs, I’ll dig a little further into the root cause of Agile failures and touch on avoiding some common pitfalls.

I’ve been in the IT industry for 25 years, and was introduced to the Agile framework nine years ago. For me, Agile was love at first sight. I think the reason I took to Agile so readily was that many of the principles were already part of my Standard Operating Procedure. I valued simplicity, I developed software in iterations so I could get feedback and make course corrections, I preferred communicating face-to-face, and I put my customers and developers in the same room often so they could collaborate and ensure we were on the right path.

What I was doing in my early years wasn’t truly Agile, but the principles I followed – many of which are in line with the Agile principles – allowed me to consistently deliver projects on time, on budget, and with the quality that my customers loved.

Some time back, I consulted with a company that brought me in to work with them on their Agile journey. A couple of their IT leaders told me that they were already Agile. They had all the right roles in place, their ceremonies seemed to be well run, and the artifacts looked clean and up to date – they looked like they had it all together

But when I asked tough questions and began digging into how they interact with each other, I saw a different picture. There was distrust between IT and the business units because of which there was no real collaboration, almost all their communication was by email for “CYA” purposes, and there was a heavy status reporting burden due to lack of transparency.