This week I attended Agile Africa 2017 and was particularly struck by a debate that raged on in one of the fishbowl sessions about frameworks in the agile world, particularly the SAFe framework. Practitioners emotionally presented their various points of view – why this framework is so bad, why this one has more merit, why this one is the downfall of the human race. These arguments all miss the point.
What was the driving force behind agile in the beginning? It was the belief that there must be better ways of building software. People focus on the 4 values and the 12 principles, but the opening statement is far more telling to me:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.
“We are uncovering”, not “we have uncovered”. Continuous tense vs past tense. These luminaries realised they were on a journey. They hadn’t discovered the best way to build software. Rather, they were trying different ways and observing what worked for them.
Mastery of any skill is not a goal in itself, but rather a journey of continuous improvement, based on actually practicing the skill yourself and working with others to learn from and teach them. Mastery of software development is no different and what the signatories of the manifesto were doing was providing some guidelines to might help others on the journey of (not to) mastery.
Agile isn’t Scrum or XP or SAFe or Kanban or LeSS or DAD or any of the other frameworks out there. These are simply different ways that could be used to build better software. One particular framework isn’t the truth, it’s just an interpretation of the agile values and principles. If a team or company adopts one of these and they improve their ability to build better software, surely that would be a win? If they then stop improving or even regress, then it is time for them to try something else, to experiment and find out what could kick in the next level of growth. As long as they are continuously improving, the method itself is not important, as the continuous improvement mindset will naturally lead to a questioning of the method.
Don’t get hung up on what is the best version of agile. Rather get hung up on how you, your team and your organisation can learn and improve. There are so many ways that can happen.