Type "Agile myths" in your favorite search engine and you'll be amazed at the plethora of results. Especially those that say, "Top myths busted!" While I consider myself an Agile evangelist, I'd like to take a moment to discuss the harsh reality that many organizations face day-to-day. Agile is not a new concept, but the term is. The Agile Manifesto codified the term and working agreements in 2001, but I (and other evangelists) argue that it existed way before the term was formalized then attached strictly to software development.
Iterative Development of Complex Systems
"I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of 2 million parts — all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract." - attributed to astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn
There were three Apollo missions before a person was ever placed in a rocket to (eventually) go to the moon. February through August of 1966 saw rocket, heat shield, and in-orbit fuel performance tests before a person set foot in the capsules. After the tragedy of Apollo 1, three more unmanned missions were flown before NASA decided to try again. It took an additional four Apollo missions before Apollo 11, and the iconic first step happened in 1969. That giant leap didn't happen with Big Up Front Requirements. It happened with teams of teams working together, iterating, retrospecting, and making adjustments. Isn't that Agile and moreover Agile at scale?
How many other times in history did we as humans nail something the first time? The Wright Brothers didn't just magically produce an airplane that sustained controlled flight in 1903. Carl Faberge didn't create imperial eggs immediately upon his return to St. Petersburg in 1872. It's not called WD-1, it's called WD-40. Agile is how we've developed some of our greatest inventions, art, and human achievements.
Scrum versus Kanban Agile
Let's take a step back and look at the two most popular frameworks of Agile: Scrum and Kanban. Instead of boring you with the typical definitions, instead, let's look at why teams and organizations think they choose one over the other.
"I am guaranteed to release product to my customers every two weeks."
Potentially shippable product does not mean it's in the hands of the customers. It means it meets the team's definition of done. It may have to be deployed into an integration or stage environment before production for further integration and testing before being released.
"We don't have to estimate capacity, we just estimate the work."
Scrum (and Agile in general) is about predictability. If you delivered an amount of work this sprint, you should be able to deliver a similar amount for "the next sprint. If your velocity makes wild swings from sprint to sprint, there's a larger problem. A good team plans their sprint delivery based on their past performance. Which leads to another one...
"There is no long-term planning, just short-term execution."
Scrum is where long-term product planning meets short-term execution. Products and product features are extremely long-lived if they are the right things. No one wants to spend time and money on things that customers won't use or don't work.
"We do Kanban because Scrum takes too much time."
Kanban was born from lean manufacturing. There is always a daily standup at the beginning of the shift. In best-in-class manufacturing, there is also a weekly meeting for metrics and a monthly safety meeting. In order to be successful, your Kanban teams should be taking almost the same amount of time!
"Kanban isn't planned or managed. Just executed."
The Kanban backlog is just as refined as a Scrum backlog. Based on classes of service, the team plans their work each day and throughout the week. For example, work in the "standard" class of service is defined as start to finish in the calendar week.
"Our team isn't a software development team."
I waver on this one. Unless you are pure customer service (think call center), you likely have larger projects you're trying to complete.
Given all of the above, it's safe to say there is definitely no single right way to be Agile (although there are LOTs of wrong ways!). As an organization, there will likely be growing pains while you try to figure out how teams work best.
Agile is not a thing you do. It's not a software development framework. It's not a 40-hour skill. Or a two-week sprint skill. Or even a Program Increment skill. It's a mindset...nay...I would argue it's a lifestyle. Agile is all around us if you open yourself to it.
Looking for more tips on how to be Agile? Check out Agile Batch Size: An Ode to Laundry or The ABC's of Agile. And if you want to know more about how to successfully implement Agile in your organization, reach out to us!