Agile VS Real Life

The Agile Manifesto tells us that:

We have come to value “Individuals and Interaction over Processes and Tools” 

Reality tells us otherwise.

Want to do unit testing? Pick up a test framework and you’re good to go.

Want your organization to be agile? Scrum is very simple, and SAFe is scaled simplicity.

We know there are no magic bullets. Yet we’re still attracted to pre-wrapped solutions.


Good question. We’re not stupid, most of us anyway. Yet we find it very easy to make up a story about how easy it’s going to be.

Here are a couple of theories.

  • We’re concentrating on short term gains. Whether it’s the start-up pushing for a lucrative exit by beating the market, or the enterprise looking at the next investor call, companies are pushing their people to maximize value in the short term. With that in mind, people look for a “proven” tool or process, that minimizes long term investments. In fact, systems punish people, if they do otherwise.
  • We don’t understand complexity. Think about how many systems we’re part of , how they impact each other, and then consider things we haven’t thought about. That’s overwhelming. Our wee brain just got out of fight-or-flight mode, you want it to do full plan and execution with all those question marks? People are hard. Better get back to dry land where tools and processes are actually working.
  • We’re biased in so many ways. One of our biases is called anchoring. Simply put, if we first hear of something, we compare everything to it. It becomes our anchor. Now, when you’re researching a new area, do you start with the whole methodology? Nope. We’re looking for examples, similar to our experiences. What comes out first when we search? The simple stuff. Tools and processes. Once we start there, there’s no way back.
  • We don’t live well with uncertainty. Short term is fine, because we have the illusion of control over it. Because of complexity, long-term is so out of our reach we give up, and try to concentrate short term wins. 
  • We don’t like to read the small print. Small print hurts the future-perfect view. We avoid the context issues, we tell ourselves that the annotation applies to a minority of the cases, which obviously we don’t belong to.  Give us the short-short version, and we’ll take it from there.
  • We like to be part of the group. Groups are comfy. Belonging to one removes anxiety. Many companies choose scrum because it works for them, why won’t it work for me? The only people who publish big methodology papers are from the academia. And that’s one group we don’t want to be part of, heaven forbid.

That’s why we like processes and tools. Fighting that is not only hard, but may carry a penalty.

So what’s the solution?

Looking for simplicity again? So soon?

Well, the good news, is that it is possible to do that with discipline. If we have enough breathing room, if we don’t get push back from the rest of our company, if we acknowledge that we need to invest in learning , and understand that processes and tools are just the beginning – then there’s hope for us yet.

Lots of if’s.

But if you don’t want to bother, just go with this magical framework.

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