Confessions of an #Agilist – Agile is dead #Pasunashi

Businessman at fork of stone pathway in water

So I’ve recently taken a job as the Manager of a Project Management Office, and I have a confession to make:

Agile is dead. I’ve seen the body.

All about perspective

When you are on the receiving end of funding, Agile makes perfect sense as it is optimizing the individual project. I give 10 projects $200K and they will deliver the best value they can individually. no problem.

But when I am on the sending end of funding, did I select the right projects? How do I decide which ones to select? If two fail, then what does that do to the company’s bottom line? Could I have used those people on more important projects? How do I justify how I selected the projects?

The Good News

The good news is certain things from how Agile lived his life has been incorporated. Iterative planning and execution is alive and well, as is User Story Mapping, and automated testing, and specification by example. A lot of the Agile practices have had a profound impact on the Software Development methods used. In some places, even Pair Programming is alive and well.

The Bad News

Sadly, the entire patient could not be saved. Now this is for a corporate environment and one that has more freedom than most corporate environments.

No Estimates is dead, Pure flow is dead, no design is dead.

Why? Predictability is king. There needs to be some business case for every project. it doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, but some analysis and design needs to be done. Some recommendation needs to exist for what the solution will look like and what the potential costs and benefits would be.


See the point isn’t about doing the project right, it is about doing the right projects. Any practice that doesn’t help us to pick the right project isn’t Agile, it is PasunashiPasunashi is Japanese for ‘Without Path’.

Selecting projects without a path and executing them without a path is not something I feel comfortable recommending.

But really Agile is not dead because once we pick the right projects, we can do them in an Agile manner and according to “Pasu ika” – Following the Path…




My @WoodyZuill experience #NoEstimates #Agile

Recently I was able to attend a presentation by Woody Zuill at an Agile Winnipeg meeting. Before I get into my opinions of the meeting, I’d highly recommend you attend a session by Woody if you have the chance. Woody is intelligent, respectful, and insightful in many different areas of Agile and Software Development.

Although Woody might be known for his No Estimates thought leadership, this presentation was more on the Agile mindset. (In my humble opinion) There were several points that resonated with me from this presentation. Early on in the presentation Woody coined the phrase “Baby Steps to Better” while discussing projects and how he strives to improve projects and project teams. I thought that if nothing else, what a fabulous principle to take away from this presentation and live every day on my projects.

Agile Manifesto

My favourite part of the presentation though was a group exercise that Woody led in relation to the Agile Manifesto. Woody very simply asked everyone what the word ‘Over’ meant to them in the Agile Manifesto.  For example, what does over mean to you in this statement?

Working software over comprehensive documentation”

Everyone scurried away writing down their thoughts. Answers filled the entire spectrum. Such as:

  • Items on the left are preferred to items on the right
  • Items on the left are given priority to items on the right
  • Items on the right should not impact items on the left
  • and so on…

Woody then proposed a fifth statement not in the Agile Manifesto to provoke thought:

“Healthy Lifestyle over eating fast food

Wow. Maybe it isn’t a continuum?

My opinion

My first thought was that this was a brilliant question to ask. I also thought it was even more brilliant to frame the discussion with the healthy lifestyle statement.

I thought about it and offered my thoughts to the group. As usual, my thoughts were somewhere in the middle. I offered that both are important but it all boils down to how often you do the item on the left compared to the item on the right. Can I have a healthy lifestyle if I eat fast food once a month? Sure. Can I have a healthy lifestyle if I eat fast food daily? Not a chance.

So can you be agile if you always follow a plan or demand comprehensive documentation? I would say no. There are some circumstances where the right might be required, but if you are always finding a reason to do the right side. You may want to ask yourself if you are truly being agile. There also may be valid reasons not be be agile based on the client, team, and problem at hand. You also shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t be agile. (My opinion)

But be aware if you are doing items on the left and right equally, you probably aren’t totally agile.  And that is OK.

But what I love about this exercise is the clarity it provided to me on what I should strive for on my projects.

Full Disclosure

I like estimates. I’m not a fervent No Estimates proponent. I find myself doing the minimum amount of estimates possible, but still usually doing estimates.

But I do absolutely respect people who challenge me to be better and think differently.

Thanks Woody. Pleasure to meet you.