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Jared Richardson works at Logos Technologies As a recognized expert in the software industry, Jared has worked with both start-ups and software giants. He's been involved with various open source projects, with roles from contributor to founder. Jared co-authored the best selling book Ship It! and Career 2.0, and founded the Agile RTP user group as a local outlet for the agile community in North Carolina. His personal blog is Agile Artisans Jared has posted 52 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Agile is Free! And Other Silly Ideas

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Agile provides a great deal of freedom, and because of that it's often percieved as being, well, free. A manager I worked with told his leadership team than "Agile was free! In fact, it'll save you money from the first day!" When he asked to buy white boards a few weeks later, he was in for a rude awakening. He'd told everyone that Agile was free, so he wasn't able to get white boards, common work areas, or any training.

So he had a large group of developers who had all their budget for any training or office improvements taken away. They had no formal training, and by the way, they had to spend less money across the board, and deliver better code more quickly. All from day one. Sadly, this isn't a tale of overcoming the odds, but rather subcumbing to a fatal myth. That Agile is free.

Anything worth having must be earned, and the success of Agility is no different. Those who view the Agile Manifesto purely as a license for unfettered freedom, or a way to get more work out a dev team simply for the asking... those don't have a clue what the Agile path requires of us.

There are are hard disciplines laid down for us to learn, especially when we're starting. The manifesto calls for valuing "Individuals and Interactions". That's more than just having a meeting every day.

Creating "Working Software" is more than installing a continuous integration server. "Customer collaboration" is more than a phone call or a note card. "Responding to change" doesn't mean changing your mind in the morning and again in the afternoon.

There are many, many techniques and approaches to bring these changes to your team, but they aren't things most people already know. Can you figure it out for youself? Sure, given time... a lot of time. That's the equivalent of asking if you should use a tool like Ant to build your software or write your own... can't you figure it out? Sure you can. But it's a waste of your time.

Tooling in the software space has matured immensely in the last few decades, but in process, it feels like we're all still writing our own languages, our own compilers, and editors. Haven't we moved past that? Haven't we learned enough to know what we don't know?

Let me strongly encourage you to pick up a book today. Anything by Andy Hunt, Dave Thomas, Martin Fowler, Kent Beck, Bob Martin, Mike Cohn... the list could go on (and please add to it in the comments). Read their blogs. Attend a conference. Hire a coach.

But stop trying to reinvent the wheel. You're wasting your life, your company's money, and making our entire industry look bad.
Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jared Richardson.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Matt Stine replied on Thu, 2010/05/13 - 9:47am

Amazing how simple principles keep popping up all over the place - "There's no such thing as a free lunch!"

To add to the book recommendations, try out stuff from Alan Shalloway (particularly Lean-Agile Software Development) and anything by Mary and Tom Poppendieck. Also I still really like Ken Auer's XP Applied.

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