Wait, That's Not Agile!

Anthony Mersino
September 27, 2016

I have a colleague who is an Agile Coach and he frequently helps me to see my own biases about agile.  He gently points out that something I said was actually about Scrum, and not about Agile.  You see my colleague comes from an XP background.  When I talk about sprints or backlog refinement or other Scrum-specific concepts, he finds it jarring. 

What I say reveals my Scrum bias.  I learned about Scrum first and often when I think Agile, I think of Scrum.  And only Scrum.
Now Scrum is the 800 lb. gorilla in the Agile world, so I might be excused for thinking of the two as equivalent.  But they aren't.  You can "be Agile" without using the Scrum framework.  Lots of people do it all the time.  

 I recently saw a great video from Craig Smith  called 40 Agile Methods in 40 minutes.  In this recorded talk from YOW 2015, Craig walks us through 40 different Agile Methods and comments on the pros and cons of each.  The drawing below was created by Lynne Cazaly to summarize his talk.  The drawing is great, but I would really encourage you to go and watch the video.  

What is the point?  The point is that each of us comes into Agile from a different perspective.  Many of us learned about Agile from Scrum…and so that is our entire perspective.  But we need to remember that Agile is more than Scrum.
Agile is about the 4 values and 12 principles - a mindset and way of working together.  Without at least a minimal understanding of these other approaches, I can't be empathetic to other agilists who come from a different perspective.  The more I learn, the more I value a broader perspective on Agile ways of thinking and working.

PS:  There is a lot of history in Craig's video and some methods that are no longer popular, like FDD and ASD.  Some of those pre-date Scrum and the people who founded them were participants at the Snowbird meeting in 2001 that led to the Agile Manifesto.  I think there is value in learning about those approaches.  It was that great thinking and experimentation that led to what we know today as modern Agile.

PPS:  The video from Craig Smith actually inspired me to pick up Alistar Cockburn's book on Crystal that I've had for 3 years and read it.  Great ideas for small co-located teams! 

About Anthony Mersino

Anthony is passionate about helping technology teams THRIVE and organizations TRANSFORM.  He loves partnering with organizations to help teams with Agile thinking and the Scrum Framework.  He teaches Agile and Scrum as well as the cultural elements that are necessary for an organization to gain true business agility. Anthony has  authored numerous articles and two books: Agile Project Management, and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers.