I just read Daniel Markham's post on how Agile is like Teenage Sex and its nice to see I'm not the only one stuggling with the reality of agile. I've been flirting with Agile development methodologies for close to 10 years now in various forms and I've never really seen them work. Admittedly, I'm in the consulting field where half your day is spent justifying your existence rather than actually cutting code, but ability to actually develop, solicit feedback and act on it in short order while still providing the level progress reporting required in this industry seems almost impossible.
I emphasize progress because in most cases you are attempting to demonstrate that you are approaching a predefined end goal. Never mind that through the iterative process you've discovered that the original end goal is irrelevant. Project reporting in an agile project becomes a process of reporting on how the end goal has changed and what that means to likely timelines and cost. Which, when you are changing timelines and cost on a bi-weekly basis becomes a process of proving that you are not completely incapable of delivering. What we really need in this world is a solid framework for structuring, managing and reporting on agile projects that 'C' levels can understand (I'm sure there's one out there, I can't be the only one with this problem? Right?)
To add to the issues, while I'm a big believer in the just-enough mantra of agile methodologies, I believe that agile is as much a characteristic of personal style as, say, sense of humour. Some have it, some don't. If you want to work agile, you have to find people who are willing and more importantly able to do so. A certain amount of this can be trained, but on the whole I think its an innate ability. When you have a team of spectacular developers, odds are good that 20% are hard wired for waterfall. So shoe-horning them into an agile project adds its own complexity and challenges.
Back to Mr. Markham's teen sex metaphore, if we think of our clients as our parents, there's a few more to add to the list:
- You try not to tell your parents that you're doing it
- When you have to tell your parents, you minimize how much of it your doing
- Your parents don't want you to do it, because it adds to much risk to the way they like things to be Agile is really the dirty little secret that's so much fun in short episodes, that happens way less than we'd like to make it seem and appeals to very few but those who actually are getting some.