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Left And Right

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development is rightly credited with launching the agile revolution and catalyzing the birth of methodologies like XP, DSDM, and Scrum. The following four major tenets supposedly underpin every single agile methodology.

agile 4

In theory, not many people (with the exception of a pure bred bureaucrat) could argue effectively against preferring the soft left side over the hard right side of the table.

In practice, the situation is often much different than the theory. While espousing the need to operate in accordance with the left side, many so-called leaders stick to their 20th century guns behind the rhetoric. They demand process and tool compliance, dumpsters full of useless forms/documents/metrics, formal, penalty-laden contracts, and preposterously huge, upfront project plans.

BD00 posits that the reasons managers and executives demand conformance to the tenets on the right while espousing the ones on the left are one or more of the following:

  • They don’t sincerely believe that the stuff on the left can possibly lead to higher quality products and faster delivery times than the stuff on the right.
  • They can’t shed their personal fears of loss of control and loss in stature if they switch operating modes from the right to the left.
  • They have no idea how to ignite the shift to the left (other than rhetoric).
  • Their hands are tied because big customers (like the government and Fortune 500 companies) demand all the hulking, time-consuming, and expensive stuff on the right.
  • They’ve made tons of money operating in accordance with the principles on the right both before and (many years) after the introduction of the agile manifesto.

Maybe that’s why I chuckle every time this quote comes to mind:

Everybody’s doing agile these days, even those who aren’t. – Scott Ambler

What do you think, dear reader? Are there any other reasons that should be added to the list?  Do you think that the ratio of fake-to-real agile orgs is high or low? Is it increasing or decreasing with time?


  1. October 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Balance nut that I am, I suspect a lot of the problem is people not realizing 51% left/49% right (*) = left over right. The idea that it’s 100% left (or right, for that matter) or bust is, IMHO, as delusional as it is common. I remember seeing a rather well-known agilista suggesting that managers should ask for the scrum master’s permission to observe their employees in the daily standup when it was evaluation time. Brilliant way to ensure that the manager is going to a) feel threatened and b) be hostile to the process change. Big-A Agile can make it very hard to be little-A agile.

    * Numbers are for rhetorical purposes only and are not intended as recommendations on the part of the author of this comment, his employers, heirs, distant relations and one-time acquaintances. Pitchfork wielding angry mobs are prohibited.

    • October 25, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Even though my writing at times might not indicate it, I agree with you (but not 100% – LOL). I think some hybrid mix is better than 100% right or 100% left. I think the project I’m working on right this minute is actually a decent mix of some stuff from the right and some stuff on the left. It has more stuff on the right than I’d like, but I understand why.

      • October 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm

        “…but I understand why”

        That is one of the most reassuring statements you can hear. It tells me two things: first of all, there’s a reason for the practice, and second, that it’s been communicated. So much trouble could be avoided if people kept those two concepts in mind.

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