Monday, December 1, 2008

Agile is a Chinese Buffet...

James Shore has put out an article called the Decline and Fall of Agile. Within the past 2 weeks, I've seen it referenced in many places, including here on InfoQ, and it has definitely sent tremors through the community. Some people have misunderstood his intentions. This has led to many people talking about what languages and labels to use when discussing their agile experiences and whether using these labels properly matters.

Here's a quote from James's article:
It's human nature to only do the stuff that's familiar and fun, and that's what has happened with Agile. People look at agile methods as a chinese menu of practices, choose the few that look cool, and ditch the rest. Unfortunately, the parts they leave out are the parts that make Agile work.
Here's my opinion-
  1. If you are not experienced in a successful agile transition that covers more than one denomination (XP, Scrum, Crystal, Lean), then you are at risk for making incorrect assumptions about what you can change or discard from the practices and still be successful. You either need experienced mentoring, or you need to follow the rules until you know why you do things and what adaptations will increase the value of Agile in your environment. You can't understand value without a baseline. You need to try the things unfamiliar to you to understand their value.
  2. If you are experienced in a successful agile transition, then you MIGHT be able to adapt agile practices and patterns to a specific environment because you have experience and the foresight to see anti-patterns and other issues as or before they occur. You have to constantly take into account that your environment is unique and adapt accordingly.
To the chinese buffet metaphor-
  1. If you've never been to a Chinese buffet, then you don't know what you like or don't unless you try it. You don't know which sauces belong on which items unless someone tells you.
  2. If you have been to this Chinese buffet before, then you have a good idea what makes a good meal for your tastes.
  3. If you have been to a good Chinese buffet before, but not this specific one... you might not realize that this one has very good versions of things you didn't like somewhere else unless you try it again.
Shu, Ha, Ri folks... Shu Ha Ri!

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