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Friday, September 9, 2011

Agile Purity

In 1998, Sun famously accused Microsoft of attempting "to kill cross-platform Java and grow the polluted Java market," a dispute which was settled out of court with Microsoft paying Sun $2B in damages.  About ten years later, in 2009, a scuffle ensued between Jeff Sutherland, original designer of Scrum, and the Scrum Alliance, which had begun issuing the "Certified Scrum Master" credential based on an outdated version of the Scrum guide.  Sutherland affirmed that "pure scrum" was defined and owned by himself and Ken Schwaber, even though the Alliance was issuing the certifications.

From http://www.sciencefix.com
The attractive paradox in both cases is that a single party (Sun or Sutherland) claims to have cornered the market on NOT cornering the market (universal software language/universal software development methodology).  But despite the wonderful symmetry of the apparent paradox, in both cases, actual revenue dollars were attached to the outcome of the debate.  As is so often the case, "pure" theory turns out to have been sheeps' clothing around an economic wolf securing net present value.

It's good to keep this in mind the next time someone accuses you of doing something that's "not agile."  "Oh," your new colleague says with a twisted lip, "You guys do PLANNING??  THAT's not agile!"  Or "Get away from me, you command-and-control fascist!" your Organizational Change Management Team Lead may shriek in panic as you suggest reconciling the story points values across two teams to allow for consistent reporting for the whole program.  Then she may attempt to roll you up in a handy burndown chart from one of the teams and throw you down the laundry chute.  There's an amazing amount of dogma in the supposedly freewheeling world of agile software development.

Let's just stop and take a deep breath for a moment.  Is the important thing to "be agile?"  Or is the important thing to secure your company's revenue with a continuous stream of high-quality software that meets the needs of your market?  Do not let the people in the brightly colored "Agile 2011 Conference:  Return to Snowbird" t-shirts distract you from what really matters:  delivering business value.  Do you want the shirt or do you want the satisfaction of a job well done?