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Which Agile Practices Have You Changed Your Mind About?

Stacey Ackerman

A community member recently brought up an interesting conversation which began during the live Q&A with Mike Cohn, then continued in our community forum with a broader audience.

“Which agile practices have you changed your mind about?”

For most agile practitioners, how we originally thought about agile evolves after we’ve been doing this for awhile.

Here’s what some members had to say:

Scrum Doesn’t Have to Be ‘By the Book’

“At the beginning of my agile journey I firmly believed every team that is new to Scrum needs to start with by-the-book Scrum, regardless of their industry,” said the member who posted the question. “Now I think it depends. I’ve seen many teams starting with Kanban and sprints who’ve developed their own agile way of working, which worked better for them than by-the-book Scrum.”

Another member added that he had the same realization that you don’t have to do things by the book. “It’s about delivering valuable software quickly, repeatedly, and efficiently. It’s about people over processes. It’s about being transparent and constantly inspecting and adapting to be able to help your people develop and deliver the right thing at the right time,” the member said.

Embracing Method Agnosticism

One of our members began his journey into agile being agnostic of any particular method. He simply applied the Agile Manifesto’s values and principles with a dash of Xtreme Programming (XP).

He added that he then went down the certification path, getting caught up in its popularity, but later became discouraged by the certification mill that developed and returned to being agile agnostic.

As a seasoned coach and trainer, he’s convinced that too many organizations dive into a method or framework (SAFe being the latest) with little to no understanding of the Agile Manifesto’s values and principles.

“There are so many ways to ‘do Agile,’ but ‘being agile’ means understanding and applying the Agile Manifesto values and principles, regardless of framework or practices,” he said.

Start With Scrum, But Evolve

Another member chimed in that he started out being very enthusiastic about agile and less enthusiastic about Scrum.

He was concerned about the likelihood of adopting some of Scrum’s practices, such as a dedicated Scrum Master for every team, especially at smaller companies.

“So initially my inclination was to get agile teams working and not stick to the Scrum rules,” he said. “Now I am more likely to suggest using Scrum, as a starting point at least.”

He discovered that what he thought were problems with Scrum are actually benefits. He’s seen Scrum by-the-book done well and has become a believer in Scrum, but he also commented that it doesn’t work well that way in every situation, and teams should try something else when it’s not working before declaring agile doesn’t work.

Mike Cohn commented that it is through experimentation that we find improvements to Scrum. “In Schwaber’s early writings he wanted every team doing a 30-day sprint (not even 4 weeks, but 30 days). Teams experimented with shorter (and longer) sprints and most teams these days do two-week sprints.”

“Sure, most experiments with Scrum make it worse, but good teams can identify good, high-value, low-risk opportunities to make it better. When they do and share the results, we all benefit,” Mike said.

Another member commented that Scrum is a great place to start, but the problem is some groups stop there. If you’re not evolving, to some extent, beyond the textbook constructs of Scrum, there may be a problem.

“The Scrum Guide tells you, if you’re doing more than this, less than this, or something other than this it’s not Scrum,” he continued. “But ‘The Guide’ never tells you that you shouldn’t try something that’s ‘not Scrum’.”

If there was a common theme to this discussion, it was to be agile in how we think about agile practices. As we grow and evolve as a community and individuals and learn from experimentation, we will find new and better ways of working---and that’s progress.

For more comments on the evolution of agile practices, join the Agile Mentors Community. Visit https://www.agilementors.com for more information on membership.

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