The intersection of technology and leadership

Is the term ‘Agile’ still useful?

This year proved interesting for those in the agile community, or at least for me. The most commercialised agile methodology lost one of its largest figureheads, and a new community of thinkers emerged focused on prioritising a practice often implied or described as optional in other methodologies. What I found fascinating about a new community forming is that in finding its own identity, it naturally results in denouncing ties with existing communities (to a certain degree) and comparisons about whether or not they are “agile”.

This lead me to ask myself, “What is wrong with agile?” To better understand it, I went back to finding out why “agile” first started. From my understanding, a community of thinking practitioners (not just thinkers) coined the phrase “agile” to unite people working in different ways to help identify with each other. The actual methods for working in an “agile” fashion existed well before they coined the term.

I respect and heartily thank this group of thinking practitioners for coining the term “agile”. A simple word acting as an umbrella that encourages people to swap ideas between communities. I recognise this same “vagueness” that draws people together also makes it difficult for newcomers to identify with what it means.

Look at how other communities relentlessly protect their set of practices, branding and declaring you are or are not doing methodology X or approach Y, particularly when reinforced with certification programs. I’ve realised this same protectionist attitude acts as a wall to new ideas spreading between people and organisations that could be beneficial.

I vouch that the term “agile” remains useful. Let us not forget the original intent behind the word. Let us embrace and create opportunities to continue welcoming all thinking practitioners from different backgrounds to connect and swap ideas and experiences to be more effective and successful.

3 Comments

  1. Scott Duncan

    I believe the term “Agile” has meaning if the things it is tied to trace back to the Manifesto’s Values and associated Principles.

    I also capitalize the word since the lower-case version is a generic word whose definition fits what the folks who developed the Manifesto created. However, when we talk about method, practices, techniques, etc. which are intended to link to the Manifesto, then capitalizing the term seems proper to me.

  2. Peter Gillard-Moss

    I keep thinking of the term Post-Agile. Post-Agile being to Agile what Post-Punk is to Punk and Postmodern is to Modern etc.

    The emphasis of Post-Agile is on the original manifesto and the way of thinking not on the sprouting competing pick-me, pick-me, methodologies that are trying to take over the world.

    I guess it’s really about where you sit on the Dreyfus model.

    I should really post about this Post business.

  3. Steve Wadley

    I think it depends to what degree you are surrounded by the same principles and ways of doing things. If your initiative/team is relatively alone, keep it, or if you are surrounded by like minded initiatives, not much point? If you know what you are doing then it should only be relative to your audience anyway.

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