July 12, 2005

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

How Agile Are We?

One of the things that I come up against a lot is people accusing team X or project Z of "not being agile", or being "agile in name only". Certainly, there's a lot of teams that have latched on to the Agile buzzword as an excuse to do NO design, NO documentation, and NO proper planning. This is not agile, of course.

But then, my experience has been that very few teams that purport to be following any methodology are actually doing it for real. You might be interested to know that a banking organisation who are were a RUP case study many moons ago were only actually using use cases, and badly at that. Their "iterations" last 6 months and they did no OOA/D at all. Of course, they had invested in a stack of tools and training (on how to use the tools, that is).

Discussions on whether or not a project is truly Agile tend to centre on the extent to which the team conforms to an Agile Method. If you do everything it tells you to do in eXtreme Programming Explained, then you're Agile, right? So if we don't do Pair Programming - and many XP teams shy away from that political hot potato - we're not Agile?

Frankly, I think judging Agility by conformance to a method or process is the wrong way to go about things. Surely there are project characteristics that would serve as a better indicator than how like XP or how like SCRUM your approach is?

For example, can we apply the 4 core values of the Agile Alliance to a project and measure Agility? Is the frequency of feedback from the people who want this software an indicator of Agility (or the lack of it)? Is the frequency and quality of face-to-face communication an indicator of Agility?

Unfortunately, the core values of the Agile Alliance are just a little too vague and hand-wavy for my liking, and not a sound basis for defining Agility. (Though they're fine as motivational statements, which is still very valuable). If we had a testable definition of what we mean by Agility, we could measure it and then we'd know how Agile a project really is, regardless of how they do things.
Posted 15 years, 7 months ago on July 12, 2005