The agile community has grown enormously since the writing of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development in 2001. Agile processes and tools have spread across and beyond software development. I attended a very interesting talk with Gez Smith, an expert in agile thinking early in 2016, about how agile has almost become a religion amongst many in the community. This started me on a train of thought which culminated at Scrum Day London 2016 with a belief that something was fundamentally wrong with the direction the agile community was going down. It seemed that, although not forgotten, the desire for certifications and sales had overtaken the principles and values of the manifesto.
Despite the manifesto being 15 years old, it was conceived by thought leaders of different ways of agile working. As time has gone by each has become more convinced that their way is the right way in which to operate, be that Scrum, Kanban or Lean. The irony to this is that dogmatically following a single framework potentially excludes key advancements that may benefit your own way of working.
The different agile frameworks all have their own certification tracks. Scrum itself has a split certification track dependent on whether you are Scrum Alliance or Scrum.org. Over the last 10 years or so these tracks have got more and more involved and detailed (Scrum.org recently announced a third level PSM course), driving potentially open thinkers down a single, restricted tunnel of knowledge. These strategies are extremely time consuming, very costly and often extremely academic – all things that take away from the direct experience that agile should encourage. We run the risk of Agile certifications becoming no more than a piece of paper to put on a CV like a PRINCE2 or TOGAF certification. I don’t believe that this is in the agile spirit. I have always felt that, in themselves, the certifications hold little developmental value - it's the quality of the underlying training and follow-on experience that matters. Without the right trainers, coaches, mentors and approaches, agile education is in danger of following similar patterns to the UK's own, targets-based, rather than value-based, education system (the irony on this from an agile perspective is not lost on me).
Resistance leads to Failure
The death of many an agile implementation is resistance to change. Overcoming resistance and enabling people to see that value, not just of initial but ongoing and continuous change, is a complex skill. It is made more difficult when following a dogmatic implementation approach which could directly conflict with the current corporate culture. For an agile implementation to be successful, the organisation needs to see the value of promoting cultural change before it can accept changes and move forward. Ken Schwaber spoke a little about this in Scrum Day London in regards to issues Scrum was having in changing the overall organisational behaviour.
The Need for Pragmatism
The idea behind the Pragmatic Agile Community is to find a home for all of the open-minded agile coaches, product people, developers and business leaders out there who strongly believe in the agile principles and the values they stand for; people who want to make products and businesses better and improve the environment of teams working on these products, but who are not tied to a specific framework. A home for people who are not afraid to break out of the rigours of Scrum, who would comfortably integrate elements or ceremonies from one framework with another because it gives the best chance of success to their organisation. Or, to put it another way...
Principles and Values over Any single Methodology
The problems with the certification demand phenomenon are as follows...
- On paper academically-orientated agilists are considered to be more 'qualified' despite the fact that they may or may not have significant real-world experience and are firmly focused on a single line of thinking, to the exclusion of all else.
- On paper a pragmatic agilist may be highly certified in Scrum but, purely for cost reasons, it is unlikely that they will also hold certifications in Kanban variant methodologies for example (this follows the principle of 'get the badges that will get me a better job' and makes perfect sense).
- As a potential client needing to make my business the best it can be I need a coach or consultant that has a wide range of experiences and an analytical mind that can formulate new theories to help guide me through enabling my organisation for agility - none of this paper truly tells me this.
What is needed and is missing from the larger agile community at the moment is a community-led certification system which recognises coaches and consultants for their experience and open-mindedness throughout their ongoing development, highlighting where pragmatism and compromise differ.
The Pragmatic Agile Toolbox
All of the key agile frameworks of today were developed before the Manifesto for Agile Software development was put together. We can think of the manifesto as the coming together of learnings from the frameworks that we use. I believe that it is time for an agile framework that…
- Is built on the manifesto and the principles that underlie it
- Recognises the skills and mind-set of coaches who are not tied to a single way of thinking
- Reflects that all businesses are not the same
- Sets itself up for implementations to succeed
- Values what it can learn from others
- Grows and adapts over time while remaining, at its core, lightweight and simple
- Belongs to the community that builds it
This should not just be a framework for software development. This should be a framework that can be used comfortably across a business entity, that can learn and adapt to fit any organisation while keeping the principles at its heart.
The community will continue to define and grow a framework which allows for a much more flexible approach to implementation while not excluding other framework elements either. A framework that will not be stagnant but will grow and develop as the community grows. An agile framework for a new age: A Pragmatic Agile Toolbox.
The initial toolkit will be developed over the next six months amongst the founding members of the community and will be made available as part of this website.
Founder - The Pragmatic Agile Community (2016)
Access to the toolkit will be limited to PARC holders only - you can read about the process for getting a PARC in the certification section of this site.