The Agile method of software development has been around for a few years now and it looks like it has settled in for the long haul. Agile by itself is not a bad method, but it can be abused as easily as it can be used. So what are the good parts of Agile? It is a really useful exercise to meet briefly every couple of days to make sure everyone is pointed in the same direction. Knowing what other people are working on prevents members from inadvertently working on the same thing.
Scrum’s are an importunity to highlight things that are stopping you from getting your work done and they are an ideal place to solicit help from your piers. Discussions should be taken off line of course in order to keep the meetings as short as possible.
So how is Agile used by the dark side? Agile should not be used to corner developers into committing to shorter than realistic development times. It should not be a place were developers are measured against each other. It is not a place to assign cookie cutter tasks one after the other and It is generally not a place for project or product managers to marshal resources. I might actually go so far as to say it is not a place for project managers full stop.
Human studies have proven time and time again that innovation requires freedom to explore ideas that often result in dead ends. Project management is traditionally very little “R” and a very big “D”. Nothing new and innovative will come from this kind of environment. Software designers are professionals that expect to be trusted to do what they have been asked to do. All professionals are taught to under commit and over deliver. A poorly implemented Agile environment will create an work place where people are forced to over commit and under deliver.
This type of environment is not what professionals work so hard in school for and one of two things will happen. People will either find another place to work or burn out trying to deliver on their promises.
For those of you who believe that Agile is the wave of the future, I strongly suggest that you keep management away from the process. Keep the good parts and discard the bad. Make sure your professionals have time for personal development and creative thinking. Companies that are big on “D” and small on “R” don’t last long because once an idea has been hatched there are always ways to make it better, faster and cost less.