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Agile programming is a process, not a panacea

  
  
  

247059136 e0e4853528by Ernie Varitmos
Strategic Consultant, Ness 

I recently came across the post "I Don't Care About Agile" while reading 5 Links for Developers and IT Pros right here on the Ness blog. While the provocative title caught my eye, when I clicked through I realized the author while not completely serious, didn't really make a great argument either.

The author's main point was that there are so many great organizational ideas out there that managers are attracted to, and profess to embrace, but they do so in words only. In other words, the benefits these ideas are supposed to create are hardly ever realized because managers are unwilling to push through the challenges necessary to implement the change. To affect such change, you must often change the culture, and that means there will be pain…Let's call it "growing pains."

But I would go further and say that while organizational technologies can certainly help a company, and it does take a concerted effort to institute change, it is rarely the technology or the effort required that is the impediment. The fact is, if the organization were truly healthy from the start, then adopting a new delivery method, or software development methodology, would be a relatively simple thing. 

The problem is more likely related to being a dysfunctional organization from the get-go, and that means it's harder to find systems that can solve your core problems. Many companies in this situation hire an external consulting organization to help out, but that's only a starting point. You have to be willing to accept the advice and find ways to change for the better, and that message has to come from the top down across the organization.

So that when your employees are presented with an opportunity to engage and share tools and technology that encourage better behaviors, you are on the way to real change -- not just talking about it. Practicing Agile, particularly Scrum, is a team building exercise, and if done right, over time will develop cohesive teams. And those cooperative behaviors are the building blocks of a healthy organization.

So does that mean your consultants will act as your organizational psychiatrists? No, but they may have to occasionally put on their psychologist hats and be sensitive to client's organizational health, reporting their observation to a leader, who can take the information and communicate requirements across the team, department or organization. Sometimes when you introduce something into an unhealthy organization, no matter how good the thing is, it will be rejected. Good consultants who are truly interested in their clients well being see these obstacles as an opportunity to help the client -- and in the process learn more to take the next one.

The bottom line is that your consultants should be in the business of making your company function in a more healthy and cooperative way. And good ones work hard to make sure they are making the customer better and improving both parties in the process.

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester} on Flickr. Used Under Creative Commons License.

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