What happened in the past: Agile is all the hype in Software Development and the talk at the golf courses across the country. Consultancy and certification are booming and rumor has it that all software development projects will now end as a success: faster, cheaper, better.
What is really going on: More and more software developers are realizing that agile is being implemented as a hype. Processes become iterative. Documents are replaced by tools that maintain a backlog. Customers are still at a far distance from teams. People are still called resources. Cheap labor is still used to “reduce costs”.
A few honest managers are aware that nothing is really changing. Quality is not improving, delivery times are not shortening, turnover of staff is not reducing. The process gets all the attention, teams are moved to an iterative delivery cycle, new practices (pair programming, test driven development) are embraced. The result is that we now deliver the wrong features faster.
What should leaders do: Agile software development has two pillars, iterative and incremental, and the four values from the Manifesto. Leaders have to pay attention to both pillars and have to implement these pillars in the right groups. Iterative is less important for the development teams. Iterative starts with the leaders themselves: don’t initiate large initiatives, initiate multiple small ones.
Iterative is for product managers: creating a stream of changes, not projects. Only then does the development team get involved in the agile transitioning — not with process, but with the first value from the agile manifesto: people and interactions over process and tools. Give the development people all freedom and all support to handle the stream of changes that leaders and managers produce. The stream of changes will create the process change in the development organization that fits the change best. Maybe Scrum, maybe XP, maybe Kanban.
Let it happen, don’t prescribe. Motivate, lead, hire the best. Then let the best be their best.
[Editor’s Note: This post is part of the annual “Cutter Predicts …” series.]