When I first meet someone in the software industry who has some familiarity with Agile software development (generally with Scrum) one of the first things they tend to ask me is whether I am dogmatic. It generally goes something like this:

“Oh, so you do agile? Ugh, at the last company I was at we did agile and I liked some things, but there were all these rules and they were hard to follow, and it didn’t end up working.”

It seems that every software engineer, product manager, and executive has had an encounter with someone dogmatic about the practices of Scrum which has left a sour taste in their mouth. At one point in my journey, I was quite dogmatic about the practices of Scrum, because they really truly are most effective if they are all followed, and they seem to be less effective if not followed completely (sometimes this is called Scrum-but).

Today, I am dogmatic about Agile (and Lean) philosophy, but not any particular practices or implementation. What I mean by that is that I find value in the ideas in the Agile Manifesto and the principles and values of Agile and Lean software development.

At one company I was at, the CEO was desperately looking for any solution to the problems plaguing successful software delivery. He asked me why he should get behind an agile transition rather than trying something else, and what difference all the practices he had heard about could really make. Instead of having a jargon filled talk with him about Sprints, User Stories, and other practices, I asked him a simple question:

“Do you think the highest priority for the technology team should be continuously delivering valuable software to our customers?”

This led to a great discussion about agile values and principles, rather than a discussion stuck in the details of process practices and implementations. In the end he became a great advocate for the agile transition, which led to the delivery of a lot of valuable software to our customers.

Using core Lean and Agile values as a guide, we can focus on continually improving the software development processes and practices we implement, even if they don’t always go by the book of some proscribed implementation or another. Practices can continually evolve, as long as when new practices are implemented we hold them up against our core Agile and Lean values to ensure that they align. If we find practices that do not align with these core values, we should examine them closely and question whether they are necessary, and throw them away if they are not adding value.

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About Shawn Samuel
Los Angeles Website
I am a technology leader focused on the delivery of websites and rich web applications using Agile and Lean processes.