Let agile methods be like ice cubes

I did a few open spaces a while back and noticed a theme within many themes of the topics : as a community, we're really really good at prescriptive remedies -- "have this problem? Talk to your agile authority and use this tool/practice/method" which is largely a good way to fail. Go ask your doctor/mechanic/landscaper/lawyer for <insert fix for problem here> and they're going to ask you a TON of questions (if not, leave), maybe do some research or tests and you might end up with a different fix or nothing all together.  Why?  It's never that simple as checking all the symptom boxes and saying that's what you need, yet as a community, that's what we've been doing, a lot.

  • Confused about your process? Use kanban ! (guilty)
  • Stories take too long? Use scrum !
  • Not delivering ?  Use XP !
  • Need visibility ? Use this tool !

... and this makes me sad because a lot of people get burned on this resulting in turning off to the whole idea of agile all together. Ask around and you'll see what I mean and some of that is due to "agile" turning into a marketing term (victim of it's own success) which brings me full circle to the prescriptive agile.  That got me thinking (related to a previous post) and I call it the agile ice cube paradigm.  Stay with me on this one.

Go to your freezer and take out 3 ice cubes. 

  • Are they the same size?
  • Are they clear or a bit cloudy? 
  • Are two fused together? 
  • Could you break those down into smaller pieces?
  • Have you ever bothered to look at ice cubes this intently? (It was a bit strange when I came up with this at first)

Each of those ice cubes contribute to a given purpose -- without uniformity or perfectness.  Does it matter if all of them, or even one is perfect?  Absolutely not -- but they will still do the job they were designed to do.  More importantly, they'll blend into the larger system given a little time and agile methods are no different.  Some may disappear quickly, others will be visible around for a while.

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