The principles of agile are fantastic. I’ve worked on projects that are both waterfall, agile and somewhere in between and, as a developer, I can’t sing the praises of being agile high enough.

Projects feel more controlled, with less risk, and we usually deliver most of what the stakeholder wanted at the end of it all. The authors of the Agile Manifesto got it spot on.

Then we went and ruined it all by giving ‘Agile’ a capital ‘A’.

The verb agile is great. To be agile means we can adapt to change, to re-think as necessary for the good of the team. As soon as you turn it into a noun, it allows people to define hard-coded processes where people can say things like ‘That isn’t how you do it in Agile’.

Scrum is a good example to illustrate my point.

The fact that you can be pay to be a qualified Scrum Practitioner bothers me, that formal process just doesn’t feel agile to me.

To demonstrate why, let me quote you the last bullet point from the Agile manifesto:

Responding to change over Following a plan

The authors of the Agile Manifesto value ‘responding to change’ over ‘following a plan’. This value, I feel, has been corrupted by Agile being treated as a noun, a process, rather than a way of thinking.

This conversation shouldn’t happen, yet it all too often does:

Developer: The standup isn’t working for us, maybe we should try something else instead

Business: We’re using Scrum on this project, so we need to stick to this format. We just need to be better at it.

This is, in my opinion, the entire opposite of being agile.

Treating any Agile methodology (of which Scrum is just one example) as a fixed process is just at dangerous as Waterfall for a project. In fact, it’s worse.

Bad Agile implementations are a silent killer of projects. You can quite happily tick over on a project for months, working your way trough the backlog, while the team slowly gets paralysed by the process.

When I think back to the best projects I’ve worked on, the team has been given room to shape the process continually as the project has evolved. That’s a credit to the project managers who have run those projects and is, in my opinion of course, the true meaning of agile.

Agile is not a process, it’s a mindset.

One parting thought. This is the first bullet-point in the Agile Manifesto:

Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools

I think that says it all.