AQA 6 – What do people get wrong about Agile?

In this episode I answer the question, what do people get wrong about Agile.

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Hello there!
This is AQA – agile questions answered episode 6 and today’s question is
What do people get wrong about agile?
I’ve got a number of thoughts on this which I would like to share with you over the next couple of minutes.
So the first thing I think people get wrong about Agile is they assume that if you’re Agile there’s no discipline or control at all and in fact I think that the opposite is the case.
Agile is very very disciplined, I would say more disciplined than traditional ways of developing products.
It’s just that the discipline takes a different form.
Another thing that people think is that if you’re Agile then you have to jump as soon as the customer asks you and do whatever they want.
That’s not the case either. I get this from teams who have grown up in agile sometimes and I have to remind them that it’s Agile compared to the way that software products used to be developed. So in the old days somebody would have to wait 18 months to get a feature. With agile development you should be able to demonstrate something every couple of weeks maybe even every week, and get to a position where people can actually use your software in a month or two.
So when you compare that with the old world where you’d have to wait for everything to be delivered before you’ve got anything then that’s pretty agile.
Another thing that people get wrong about Agile is that they think that Agile is Scrum and if you’re not doing Scrum you’re not Agile. There are other people who think that Agile is kanban and if you’re not doing kanban you’re not Agile.
Those are ways to achieve agility but really they’re just kind of particular methodologies and disciplines that are Agile.
You could theoretically do Scrum and do everything there is straight out of the Scrum guide without being Agile and I’ll come on to that now

The key thing with Agile is you deliver real things to your customer in small increments and you use the feedback from the customer that they are getting through using the product, whether it’s software or it’s some other kind of thing in the real world, and you use that feedback back to change what you’re going to do next with the product. And that’s the key to being Agile: It’s about getting something out there quickly seeing how people use it and using that insight to improve it. So you could develop something iteratively: So you could develop a bit, and then you could develop the next bit, and you could develop the next bit, and you could deliver something every two weeks, but if you never change the order of what you were going to deliver you wouldn’t be Agile. That would just be an iterative development.
So it’s really getting that feedback and then using that feedback to change what you do is the critical thing about being Agile.

And then the final thing that i’m going to go through here that I think that people get wrong about Agile, is that they think that Agile makes you deliver faster and it doesn’t really:
If you had a project that had one big bang delivery right at the end and it was 18 months long, theoretically that project would deliver faster than the same amount of functionality delivered in an agile manner. Because like it or not there is an overhead to Agile: The meetings that some people complain about: The regular planning meetings, the daily stand-up meetings, they are an overhead so compared with this kind of theoretical, “Let’s just let everyone do something for 18 months and then we’ll have a lovely product at the end of it.”, there’s more cost and it’s not as quick.
Where you do get the benefits is that you get something that you can give to your customers earlier, and also you avoid developing all that stuff which is never going to be needed so you don’t develop the wrong stuff.
When you put something out there you put a small version out and if it’s wrong you can take it out, and you don’t develop a fully flavored version of that thing. So really, although you’ve got a bit of an overhead because you’re kind of checking what you’re doing every couple of weeks, and then you’re changing what you’re doing, and that does take effort, in the long run you really see the advantage of Agile because you’re not wasting months developing a thing that when you put it out into the market nobody’s going to need.
Another thing people get wrong about Agile is that they think it’s a new and sexy thing, when in fact Agile has been around since the mid-90s. So if you think about it that’s 25 years now, which is as long as the previous dominant process which was waterfall.
You know that was invented in the early 70s. So 70 to 95, that’s the kind of area of waterfall, and 95 to 2020 – 2021 now is agile. So it’s hardly new.
Another thing people get wrong about Agile is that they think it’s incompatible with traditional project management processes. Things like PRINCE2, PMI, PMBOK, and so on. I found that very much not to be the case. The way i think of it is that the project management side of it faces out. So it’s about saying, “If we spend this amount of money; if we get these people together, then this is what we’ll achieve, and we’ll achieve it in these stages.”
Whereas the agile part of it is very much how we organize the team to deliver those things. The other thing is that a lot of project management stuff is not to do with the product development. So it might be to do with finding an office for the staff to be in, or for example training materials, a publicity campaign – So all of these things are not necessarily part of the product development but they are necessary in order to get everything that’s involved in the project done.
So there are many other things that people get wrong about Agile but I think that they are the major things.
I’d love to know what you think about it, so if you’d like to hit me up on LinkedIn, or Twitter or facebook or whatever then that would be great. Hopefully you’ll find this interesting and you’ll stay with me and look out for the next episode of Agile Questions Answered.