one foot in the past?

[I wrote this piece on May 12th 2007. I found it today in my Drafts folder, and it still feels relevant. What do you think?]

While collating this week’s Carnival of the Agilists I very much wanted to break with tradition. In the usual format we use the four values from the Agile Manifesto as the main headings in the digest. These headings (“people over process” etc) represent the rallying cry of the agile movement, and express a set of desires in adversarial terms: we prefer this compared to that. That kind of thinking was all well and good in 2001, when the great and good in Snowbird felt they had a war to win. But I grow less comfortable with that approach over time, and I feel the need for something different.

Moreover, I wanted to lift the digest’s eyes a little, away from the nitty-gritty of what colour task cards to use and onto the reasons I feel agile software development is important and necessary: delivering business value. I wanted to change the headings to the three metrics suggested by Mary Poppendieck a while ago:

  1. reduce cycle time;
  2. increase business case realisation; and
  3. increase net promoter score.

Guess what: I couldn’t do it. In particular, I couldn’t fill those first two sections. The blogsphere is full of the minutiae of task-based planning, test-driven development, customer collaboration and so on. But there’s very little being said about business drivers or measuring benefits. I have found a small number of bloggers who write about cycle time – usually from a Theory of Constraints perspective – such as Pascal van Cauwenberghe and Clarke Ching. And there are a number of good blogs in the “user experience” category – notably Kathy Sierra, the folks at 47signals and those at Planet Argon.

But compared to the hundreds of blogs about task cards (and I’ve been as guilty as any), those mentioned above are a drop in the ocean. It’s as if most of the software development community is fixated on “being” agile, instead of being fixated on delivering. So come on, prove me wrong. By all means talk about what you do and how you do it, but try also to relate that to why you do it – map everything back to those metrics (or anything similar). Let me report in my next turn at the Carnival that we’ve lifted our eyes towards our goal.

One thought on “one foot in the past?

  1. Confused by the date stamp on this post. I would agree that most agile I see is about practices and processes and not focused on delivery. It’s easy to lose sight of delivery, especially if your product/commercial team don’t have the right mindset.

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