Eulogy to the Old Agile

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Categories: Agile

Escorted on stage by a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace, Alistair Cockburn, Ph.D., began his keynote address for the Agile 2009 Conference by waxing Shakespearean on the death of agile as we know it:
I come to bury agile, not to praise it;

The evil methods do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with agile.

The noble Waterfall
Hath told you agile was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath agile answered it.

(Adapted from Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2. You can read Alistair's full monologue here.)

Melodramatic (in a good way) to be sure.

But Alistair, an IT strategist and co-author of the Agile Manifesto, doesn't really believe agile has "met its maker" as the saying goes. Instead, he said agile is in transition--it's not the agile of the 1990s. The landscape has changed. It's grown beyond small organizations and is being applied to much richer, much more complex concepts and projects.

Agile shouldn't be "new news," he said. "We're focusing so heavily on things that are 15 years old, I want to start focusing on things that are current."

He also shared three pillars of 21st century software development:

•    Software development is a craft: Developers must pay attention to their skills and to the medium--they must relearn every few years.
•    Software development is a cooperative game of invention and communication: It relies on teamwork, communication and strategies.
•    Software development should use lean processes: That means small queues, cross-trained people and varied processes.

Hosted by the Agile Alliance, the conference has pulled in 1,400 attendees from more than 38 countries. You can follow all of the conference happenings on Twitter.

Did you attend Alistair's keynote address? What did you think?

More to come. 
Posted by Kelley Hunsberger on: August 27, 2009 09:34 AM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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Gloria Quesada

I've been a program, project and portfolio manager for 20 years. Done it all hardware, middle ware, software. I started with the waterfall method and made it work. Motorola, the company I worked for at the time, was astounded.

How could I have a 98% on time delivery and stay within 5% budget? I worked 10 to 12 hour days. As with each new process comes change, understanding, the manipulation of the process or let's call it personalization of the project process to align it with internal team and executive needs.

I became very good at modifying processes to make them efficient and effective. I eventually became a project/program cleaner at Motorola. I ran two major and eight minor projects all the time always with executive goals to accomplish. Then delivered over and over again. So I come with many years of experience in diverse fields, aero-space (helicopters, helicopter engines, modules), semiconductor tools, software, servers, workstations.

I was offered this job with Nokia in a acquisition, I've now been using agile for 3 years and completely sold with this process. It has made my life easier and spread the responsibility of delivering on time to everyone on the team. I now have 100% on-time delivery track record. It is taking the step from working hard to working smart.

I was effective with the waterfall because I modified it to be iterative early on. In the example of software releases ... #1 goal to have working software within four weeks and every four weeks there after have new working features. The agile model opened my eyes to push for 10 days. Now my teams demos new working software every 10 days and plan every 10 days and incorporate changes every 10 days.

I actually feel like with this model I can sleep at night, and don't have to work 10 to 12 hour days to make it work. There is a possibility that I could actually retire from the tech business, well that is fairly far out there but it is now a possibility.

Try the model ... it is effective. I now call myself the "stuffer". I do all the stuff around the project to keep it going, sub-contracts, budgets, resourcing, reporting, anything and everything that needs to keep us compliant and release on schedule.

For me agile has made it time to bury Cesar. glo

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