Proof Agile Doesn’t Work

canstock12611275-proof-blueWhilst recently attending a networking event, I was asked what I do, to which I replied I’m an Agile & Lean consultant.

Being this was not a software development related event, my response was met by blank faces; until one of the group I was speaking to (who I’ll call ‘John’ for the purpose of this post) commented that “agile is a project management methodology used in software development.”

Feeling this was not the time to be pedantic, I agreed that agiles’ roots can be traced back to software development – adding that agility has since become a strategic approach for cutting costs, getting an earlier return on investment and gaining a competitive advantage, widely used across many industries.

John then asked if we could catch up later to talk ‘agile’ as his organisation was considering adopting it.

“Sure” I said, “Let’s do that.”

When we caught up again, John asked if many companies were ‘doing’ Agile. I replied in the affirmative, telling him that Agile was fast growing in popularity.

Seeming surprised by my answer, John then asked “why are so many companies adopting agile and what type of results are they getting?”

I explained that in today’s fast changing, highly competitive business world, agility is not only a proven strategy for getting higher quality products to market quicker, it is often the difference between commercial success and failure.

I then went on to tell him that those companies who were ‘truly’ Agile tended to reap the benefits; whilst those who weren’t, rarely did!

Looking skeptical, John confessed he didn’t believe Agile really worked. He added that he also doubted his organisation would be interested in adopting Agile because “no one in the company understood it”.

“Many companies do not fully understand Agile to begin with” I reassured him “but those companies serious about becoming or remaining competitive in today’s world of instant gratification tended to invest the time and money required to gain that understanding.”

“Makes sense” John responded “but my company’s unlikely to invest in getting an understanding of something they do not see the benefit in.”

At this point my mind conjured up an image of a chicken and egg!

So I suggested to John that the situation he had just described presented him with a great opportunity to significantly increase his personal value to his company, by first educating himself about Agile, and then introducing it to his company by running a ‘stealth Agile’ project.

I explained that if he did this right, not only would ‘stealth Agile’ give him tangible results to present to the decision makers within his company, there was also a good chance his efforts would be rewarded with a pay rise, career progression – or both.

(I explain what ‘stealth Agile’ is, and exactly how to use this simple, but effective strategy to get paid more and promoted quicker in my book ‘Waterfall to Agile: A Practical Guide to Agile Transition – available on Amazon here)

John looked excited when he heard this, and said, “Wow – that’s great. In fact; me and my colleague are planning on starting a pilot Agile project next Monday.”

“Great” I said with a big smile “and what’s your starting point?”

“Well” John said “we came across ’12 Principles of Agile’ on the internet and we’re going to implement one principle per week – then see how we get on.”

Alarm bells started ringing in my head.

“Ok” I said. “But be mindful that the 12 principles are holistic and might not work so well in isolation. Which of those principles are you planning to start with.” I asked

“I don’t know,” John responded “I haven’t read them yet!”

Alarm bells ringing louder in my head, I then asked; “When are you planning on reading them?”

“On Monday morning – before we start the pilot project.”

By now I had I ran out of things to say (OK – that’s not totally true; a few things came to mind – some admittedly not polite – but figured saying them might not have been the best use of my energy and time; especially since I had a train to catch)

So I wished him good luck, then took my leave.

And whilst walking to the train station, I couldn’t help thinking that in 12 weeks (or less), John was likely to have his proof that Agile doesn’t work.

What do you think?

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