Agile is really “Lean thinking” for software development

AGILE methodologies are getting a lot of attention at the moment and yet your average financial service giant still delivers through traditional “waterfall” approaches in its software teams.

Some argue that this should change and that “AGILE has to be the only way” and this opinion seems to be based on their own environment, usually a creative or innovative sector. When the sector is highly regulated and its technologies are based on mainframe traditionally written platforms then it isn’t as simple as that.

Is doing AGILE a black and white decision?

AGILE is a placeholder for several methodologies that operate in the spirit of the AGILE manifesto cast back in February 2001 in Snowbird Utah.

“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it? Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

Kent Beck, Mike Beedle, Arie van Bennekum, Alistair Cockburn, Ward Cunningham, Martin Fowler, James Grenning, Jim Highsmith, Andrew Hunt, Ron Jeffries, Jon Kern, Brian Marick, Robert C. Martin, Steve Mellor, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, Dave Thomas

The last paragraph means in traditional approaches people potentially value the wrong things rather than what really matters; which in AGILE terms is the deliverable as perceived as value by the customer. I mention that specifically because when I first read it I didn’t understand where it was coming from, but I hope my interpretation of helps. They mean we value process, controls and documentation rather than delivered functionality where the real value lies.

Albeit that the agile manifesto has 12 principles, which are in reality guiding themes, it is a pretty broad brush definition and indeed that was its intention. Indeed Martin Fowler states that to copyright the term was never the intention.So when people say “AGILE is the only way” or “We do AGILE”, then these statements are fairly broad. So a decision to do AGILE or not to do AGILE means different things to different people and the statements themselves are not as clear as they first seem.

In reality, stepping back from all this, to be doing AGILE you simply are striving to remove waste and to focus on the flow of value within the guiding themes. For a non I.T. person who hasn’t been exposed to this AGILE “thing” this sounds a bit like Lean Thinking! Womack and Jones .

Well it is really – isn’t it?

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