Agile starts at the top

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24 March 2014

Michael Kutz, one of the founders of the Agile methodology, wrote a blog entry recently entitled Agile Is Dead noting that the word Agile is thrown around as the new management buzzword, and is all but ineffective.

Mike speaks ad nauseum about Agile being a verb, not a noun as it is incorrectly used throughout the software industry.

At it's heart agile is a practice, a methodology and a way of thinking. To become agile companies need to understand that in each of their projects there are three things: a scope, a budget and a deadline. In a Waterfall project we'd agree to all three at the beginning, with the deadline being largely impacted on scope.<br/br/>With an agile approach we'd understand that one of the three things needs to give, and it's usually going to be less important scope.

We can do this by taking a 'fuzzy goal' approach, where we decouple the requirements to the deliverable, and make the deliverable a business goal. Why else are we spending the money?

The problem with fuzzy goals is that it's often hard to communicate with stakeholders that they might not get everything they want. We know we will satisfy each of the business requirements to the best way possible, but perhaps not the best of breed implementation for every item.

To communicate this we need stakeholders that are invested in the process, and are focused entirely on outcomes, not on specific deliverables. This becomes near impossible where design comes in.

Stakeholders always want to see what they're getting before they can sign off, and signing off on an agile machine is signing off on a promise. This presents a challenge for any stakeholder manager, because it is the direct opposite of an agile approach.

So, this leaves the question of where agile should start. It should start at the top.

Ross PW has a nice article about UX and agile for agencies that's worth the read.