Friday, October 27, 2006

But they aren't agile.

Agile is sweeping the developing world. But it is not going without it's growing pains. I've not heard of anyplace that was able to switch to an agile process smoothly. We started switching almost a year ago, and we are still going through growing pains. However, Agile is designed to continually improve the process as well. The people who came up with agile just came up with a manifesto. What it means, is that there is no single way to be agile. Whatever works for you that fits with the idea in the manifesto, is agile. There are many processes that have become fairly common with agile, but none of them have to be used, because the Agile process stresses people not processes. Personally, many of my earliest complaints about agile were more that our Agile process is not Extreme Programming. Extreme programming is often viewed as Agile, and it's philosophies are very much the same, but it does stress certain processes. Anyway, the point I'm making is that Agile is an idea, not a process.

Recently, I heard a co-worker complaining that she needed help from another department by saying, "But they aren't on agile, I can't get them to do things as fast as we want." This caught me off guard. I fully support Agile. And being agile also means being flexible and communicating a lot. This incident felt a lot more like someone complaining about another group not dropping everything and jumping into action at the last minute. It's something that the complainer also would not have done if the situation was reversed, even though she's "agile". If you know that you will need help from someone, don't wait until the last minute to ask him for help. As soon as you have something that you know will need help, send an email with a heads up, "Hey in 5-10 days I have this thing that I'm going to need your help with". Then as you get closer and have a better defined list of what will need to be done send another email. "Hey in 3-5 days I need this thing done, it includes, X, Y, and Z. Please let me know if you will be able to get that done and when, so I can let my boss know." For a total of 3 sentences you no longer have a last minute issue. The person you need help from knows that something was coming and can make sure that their workload has some room for it. If they won't have room for it, they are able to tell you immediately. Finally, just because something is your number 1 priority, it doesn't mean that it's the other person's number 1 priority. Use this early and often communication both with the person you need help with and your boss/client to let them know what's going on and what issues may occur. And finally remain flexible. If the person who's helping you is not available, then let it push back. It's always better to get it right than to have to do it twice.

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