#Agile’s dirty little secret

I had the kernel of this blog post a few weeks ago. The idea of the blog post grew and crystalized after viewing Dave Thomas’s presentation ‘The Death of Agile’. It is easily one of the best videos I have seen from an entertainment and educational point of view. I really love watching presentations from people who are simply excellent at presenting. It gives you the same pleasure as reading a book by an author who uses the english language effortlessly.

If you haven’t seen the presentation yet, you can view it at the following link.

Dave makes the funny point of how the Agile movement first had to take a verb and turn it into a noun. No small feat to be sure. 🙂

Presentation Recap

The first part of the presentation is a tongue-in-cheek view of the past history of the business of Agile. It is a very humourous romp through history. Very entertaining and Dave is such a great presenter you really wonder if he is joking or not. It takes us to get to about the 15:00 mark until Dave lets us in on the joke.

The Heart of it

Dave makes the point that we are taking what was a very valuable set of values and degrading it. Dave then states that it is time to reclaim Agility and take it back. Specifically, “It is time to take it back and deny the people who tell us how to do it”


There has been so much talk in Agile lately that unless you are doing some methods with no accommodation, you are not Agile. Not doing User Story Mapping? You are not Agile. Don’t have a true flow process in place? You are not Agile. Still Estimating? You are not Agile. Just doing iteration and mini-waterfalls? You are definitely not Agile and should do the walk of shame.

Agile Definition

Dave then gives us the best definition of Agile I have ever seen. He states that Agility is following these steps:

  1. Find out where you are
  2. Take a small step towards your goal
  3. Adjust your understanding based on what you learned
  4. Repeat

Simple. Right?

The hard part is all of us need to take the Agile Movement back from the precipice of being a noun and make it a verb once again. The Agile Manifesto understood this. Every principle had a continuum and action implied. They never said thou shalt never do Contract Negotiation again, but that we should move towards Customer Collaboration. Implied in that is that we should be always moving, improving, and adjusting.

I’ll go a step further. The Agile Manifesto should have a fifth principle added. The first four are:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

And I’ll state we should add a fifth

  • Seek to Understand and Coach people over judging and criticizing people


In short, we need to take a noun and turn it back into a verb. Agile isn’t something to achieve. Agility is a state of mind about constant improvement no matter where you currently are. Some of us are in Texas and some of us are in France just based upon the context of our projects, teams. and clients. We should always seek to understand each other and help to coach them. But always respect where they are first.

This blog post came about by reading Mike Cohn’s blog – “An Interative Waterfall isn’t Agile“.  Instead of judging each other we need to help each other and if some people have just made the step to Iterative Waterfall… well God Bless them..


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

One thought on “#Agile’s dirty little secret”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: