Scrummyland is Just a Park in Agileville

Tom Bellinson
Oct 20, 2017 · 3 min read

I get it! The “Scrumites” have taken over the Agile world. People have become so indoctrinated that “Agile” may be to the 2010’s what “paradigm shift” was to the 1990’s. It may become so overused in the wrong way that it will have become almost meaningless. It’s too bad because agility is the right frame of mind for our times.

A coworker recently asked me if Agile works for non-software development IT projects. He cited an article that argued that ITIL is at odds with Agile. I disagree. It may be more at odds with Scrum, but not Agile.

Scrum is but one in an infinite number of possible interpretations of the 12 Agile Principles. I do agree that some common Agile practices don’t fit well with IT project priorities. However, there is no reason why these practices cannot be adapted to be better suited. Allow me to paraphrase and boil down the 12 principles of Agile:

  1. Satisfy customers — Who wouldn’t do this?
  2. Be flexible, even late in the game — IT folks invented this — it is necessary to survive a continually changing technical landscape.
  3. Deliver working software frequently — Change “software” to “solution iterations” and this can work for any project. If you’re building a power plant, you may need to build components on a small scale and in a test environment, but they should still work. Admittedly, some types of projects don’t lend themselves to incremental delivery to the customer.
  4. Business & Tech peeps need to work togetherCOMMON SENSE ALERT! This is just good practice anytime.
  5. Find good people, give them a good work environment, and trust in them — Read Good to Great by Jim Collins. This is an old idea.
  6. Face-to-face conversations are the best way to communicate — Talk about old ideas, this one is at least 200,000 years old.
  7. Working software is the best metric — Substitute “solution” and you’ve got another obvious broad definition of success. The best measurement of performance is the output — who’d a thunk it?
  8. Function at a sustainable pace — Seems like good advice for anyone doing anything unless you’re a sprinter. This is undoubtedly a warning to would-be employers thinking they can work millennial developers to death for months, or worse, years. Good luck with that!
  9. Always pay attention to good design and technical proficiency — This one sometimes gets short-shrift in Scrummyland. People think that if you iterate quickly enough, you can figure out the design as you build. How’s that working out for ya?
  10. Keep it simple — Could this be any more axiomatic? Maybe in a Post-Agile world in which AI is doing everything, it can throw this rule out. But, for us primates, it’s usually a good idea.
  11. The best work comes from self-organizing teams — This is underutilized on many teams, but I think it would help if they did it more. Usually, management needs to give permission for this to happen. Hey! Lighten up managers (this goes for directors, VPs and CXOs, too)!
  12. Hold regular retrospectives and figure out how to do better the next time — Another underutilized good idea for any project. Software teams doing Scrum tend to get this right. Others could learn from the practice.

In conclusion, all I see here are a few opportunities for IT organizations to get better by doing stuff they were already supposed to be doing, or adopting a few Agile practices. It’s easy to see why some of the original Agilistas are dumping the moniker at this point. They don’t want to live in Scrummyland anymore. Don’t then. Live in Agileville instead.

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Thanks to Dane Hillard

Tom Bellinson
Build Smarter
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