In pursuit of agile coolness

I’ve been doing a series of talks recently about agile being a mindset and not a methodology. At the core of the presentation (and the end talking points) are three questions:

1.At what point are you “agile”? 2.Are too many teams craving structure? 3.Is agile a methodology?

I’ve also had some feedback that the graphs and cheesecake pie sum up the current state of agile testing.

So here they are, included in this post. Let’s include some perspective on them though.

The Graph

Agile is cool. No doubt. The graph shows how the more you use the word “agile”, the cooler you become. It starts to take a downward turn the more you use the word “agile” though as you start to become a sort of freakshow if the only thing you say is “agile”.

“You want to go out for lunch?” “agile” “hmm, ok, did you want me to grab you a sandwich?” “agile” “right. You fancy a beer later?” “agile” “Got anything planned for the weekend?” “agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile, agile” “right. Freak.”

The thing is though, you’d still be cool, but only on YouTube and daytime TV.

The Pie Charts

The pie charts show agile adoption and failure within the IT industry in 2009. As we can see EVERYONE tried agile in 2009. And EVERYONE failed. At least that’s what it feels like.

The Agile Cheesecake Pie

Agile Pursuit is by far the most common behaviour I see. It’s based around the board game “Trivial Pursuit”.
Playing pieces used in Trivial Pursuit are round and divided into six sections. A small, plastic wedge can be placed into each of these sections to signify when a question from a certain category has been correctly answered
. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trivial_pursuit

Instead of questions, development teams use techniques or processes that once mastered, result in a tiny piece of cheese, or pie, or cake – hence the name “cheesecake pie” being available.

Some teams are so determined to become agile that they set themselves a list of about 6 – 8 techniques they think they need to be doing. They then enter the lengthy, and often never ending game of agile pursuit, even if the process they had to start with was working fine.

They face problems, questions and queries on their way to filling their agile cheesecake pie. Only when the cheesecake pie is complete do they declare themselves agile. Ironically though, in the pursuit they loose sight of the reasons why they wanted to be agile and end up with so many techniques that they just can’t get the software out of the door. Either that or the game gets abandoned because everyone got bored…or left…or retired.

As a team relaxes about declaring themselves “agile” they actually end up gravitating towards the complete cheesecake pie as they strive to offer rapid feedback and tweak their process. (sounds painful).

 

Conclusion

After each of my talks there has been a resounding and common conclusion to the three questions I pose:

1.At what point are you “agile”?

You are agile when “you stop wondering whether you are agile and just get the job done”

2.Are too many teams craving structure?

Structure is a killer for most teams, especially in the testing world where we are used to formal documents, formal test cases and formal metrics. Making the shift is terrifying and for some it’s a step too far. But for some organsations and teams that *can* be a good thing.

3.Is agile a methodology?

Agile is not a methodology. It’s a mindset. It takes a new outlook on software development. It’s an attitude. It’s about inspecting and adapting. It’s an approach.

Let me know what you think (and no doubt there will be some interesting feedback) as comments to the blog post.