Is Agile any good, bad or just a religion?


Agile really divides opinions:

There are huge debates across the Internet, including many angry ones, about whether Agile works, is good or not, and even if it is a ‘religion’ (as preached by the ‘Agile zealots’) or as some even put it, is ‘total crap’.

When Project Management was first introduced, words like religion were used then. It was like an “act of faith”, as a few core people believed in its capacity to bring good to something really hard to do well (deliver projects successfully while keeping all people happy).

Countless others asked then, “where’s the proof?” There is proof now, but it has taken some time to emerge.  Few organisations would now dispute that if you have an important project, you have to manage it well.

Agile Project Management Method


What Agile is not:

  1. Agile is not like a light bulb. In other words, we can buy it, plug it in, and it works, 100%. Agile is not like that.
  2. Agile is not a method or a process – it’s a way of working, or philosophy if you like.
  3. Agile is not easy – it’s simple to understand in principle, yes, but hard to do really well. It takes a lot of effort to do well and make it match your circumstances – many ‘Agilists’ don’t understand that and few will tell you.

Common Misconceptions:

There are some very serious flaws and common misconceptions being touted by some people about Agile. Many of them alone can kill your chances of success. So, we have the new panacea, so it seems.

Everyone seems to want to do it or try it at least. What happens, is too many people think they can simply ‘buy it’ via a few certifications and a 2-day course, hoping they have delivered a major change in the ways working of a very challenging activity (delivering complex projects), without the level of thought and effort required to have a real chance of success.

Things to do and never do:

Never follow Agile like a religion.  Don’t do any part of it unless you know exactly why you are.

  • if people say things like “in Agile we don’t do deadlines” and you need to manage to deadlines, tell them that won’t do and explain why.
  • if you need a project manager for good reasons, have one!
  • if anyone says:
    • ‘the project starts with a product backlog’ – things are going to get (much) worse, not better.
    • ‘you can’t do/have that – this is Agile’ – ask them to reconsider their words, seriously.
  • you will need a genuine commitment to making the change and making it work (from both developers and the business). If there are real doubts, you should delay the move until you have solved the issues.

One key thing that is required to make it work: simplify and improve

When we first try Agile, whoever we are, we will make mistakes.  Some things won’t work for us as we hoped. Expect that. Accept that. Learn from it and improve what we have all the time, simplifying whenever we can.  The key principles that sit within Agile, underpin the best project delivery environments we have seen since we started our business.

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