• Trey Hahn

Encouraging rather than "implementing" agile

In a prior post, I stated that agile must be implemented in an agile way. I stand by that idea, but I want to go deeper on this subject. Should we be trying to implement agile at all? Or, should we be encouraging an agile way of working? What is the difference? I will explain.

We know that the ideas behind agile are what resonate with people, not what it has become known as in industry, the buzzword, or its implementations. Why is it that despite positive perceptions of the ideas, there are bad experiences with the term? Two thoughts come to mind. First, it should be noted that what is often described in these bad experiences is not an agile way of working. What is being described is something that has been forced upon people and labelled with the term "agile". Ironically, I don't think forcing a way of working on people is very agile.

Second, agile is a vision for a way of working. It is not a product that can be sold or that you can force. This is why I question the approach and language of "implementation". There is sometimes an implicit framing that your organization can benefit from agile if you do it. In fact, you don't do this vision, it happens.

What agile is when it's happening (for characteristics and full references see here)

Let's think about the first practice in the table above. How do you implement frequent collaboration?... Can you? Should you? What about reflection or experimentation?

When reflection happens, it's great. But my hunch is that it's not effective or smart to try to force it.

So instead of trying to implement these components of agile, what other approach can we take to reach the vision? I think this is something we need to think about and discuss.

My first thought is perhaps we should try a more bottom-up perspective. Instead of being something to implement, can agile be encouraged? Can we enable people to work in an agile way? They ultimately have to be the ones themselves that do it.

Agree? Disagree? Is there another word that better represents this string of thought? A discussion is a place to start for action. :)

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