Agile is only natural

June 1, 2007

There is so much hype about “agile” methodologies today, one can get easily confused. It seems to me that when talking about software project management “agile” is basically a synonym to “natural”. After all that is how we humans operate in life, or should I say, how our brain operates.

Imagine a pedestrian, well an “agile” pedestrian (which is a regular healthy guy), trying to cross a street. The feedback loop [the eyes sending the signal to his brain about road situation and the brain telling his legs to either wait or make steps] activated every fraction of a second keeps the pedestrian alive and healthy, delivering him to the other side of the street in a heart beat. Now imagine a “waterfall” pedestrian whose feedback loop is slow because of some illness or because he is wearing sunglasses at night. His brain takes a snapshot of a street situation and tells his legs “go”, then checks back with eyes 5min later or never. Guess what, the chances are pretty high the “waterfall” pedestrian is not going to survive long on a street with heavy traffic.

That is the same with software product and project management. Only the street is your market and the cars are your market requirements and competitors. If you do not have a regular feedback loop [produce incremental working release, show it to your customer, re-prioritize requirements] you may soon hear sirens of an ambulance coming to pick up your product.

Too late to change the terminology but it is funny that we call the crippled “waterfall” way of project management ‘project management’ and the natural and right way of doing it ‘agile project management’.

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