That’s what I call Skinny Agile.

If I told you that I was a bodybuilder but didn’t have any protein in my diet – what would you say? Let’s say that I lift weights and I eat other healthy foods which are helpful to bodybuilding – oats, fruit, vegetables – all great macronutrients which are valuable to a bodybuilder – but the fundamental building block to actually create muscle which would make me a bodybuilder –  does not exist in my diet.

Would I still be a bodybuilder?

No, because a bodybuilder builds muscle and without protein in their diet they are not going to build significant or noticeable muscle.

Now let’s say I tell you that ‘I’m Agile’ but I rarely use my customers feedback to create products that they want.  I do the other healthy ‘Agile things’ like say the daily stand up, retrospectives, play planning poker – all of that good valuable stuff but the most important thing that is vital to Agile: using the feedback loop to create something the customer wants – is missing.

Would I still be Agile?

No, because an Agile organisation builds products that the customer wants and if you do not have feedback in your organisational diet you are building what you think the customer wants.

Look I don’t wanna come across like some sort of Agile Zealot who doesn’t get that different organisations are at a different stage of adopting Agile.

I get that and I respect that.

Like everything Agile, be it SCRUM, KANBAN or XP–the adoption of any Agile approach or framework is an iterative journey. But my gripe is  the prioritisation of what should come first in your organisations journey in attempting to adopt Agile.

I guess I’m asking: what is your MVP when adopting Agile?

The same way you prioritise the most important features in your product backlog, you need to prioritise the most important features in your transition to Agile.

Just like the bodybuilding comparison, when I first started lifting weights 15 years ago, yes the exercises in the gym were important but the first thing in my bodybuilding MVP was “Get protein and lots of it in your diet”. Otherwise whats the point of lifting weights or learning any exercise if you are not applying the most fundamental principle in bodybuilding – you must eat protein to allow muscles to grow!

I find it interesting that so many organisations do not prioritise the most important ‘feature’ when adopting Agile: using the product feedback loop to build the right thing!

When I first came across the Agile Mindset 5 years back, I was in a traditional Prince2 environment. When I saw the differences between the Traditional & the Agile Approach to project delivery the one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was that Agile projects allow scope to change, traditional projects don’t or rather prefer not to.

 And that’s for 2 good reasons why scope can change in the Agile project delivery model.

Reason One: We’re dealing with software, so we can get an idea of what features we want to build but how granular we are about it – well we need to keep that pretty fluid, so scope needs to be able to change.

Reason Two: We can’t predict how a market will react to a product or if a customer won’t have new ideas about what they want AFTER they get to play with the new functionality. We want the customer to feedback what they want so we can grow a product they will buy!

The most stand out point between Agile & Traditional project delivery?

Traditional project management measures success as delivering a project on time and in budget. The Agile approach measures success as delivering a product that the customers actually want.

The very thing that defines a successful Agile approach is building a product the customer wants – yet organisations still have CEO’s & CTO’s making huge assumptions about what customers want – and still say “We’re Agile ?”.

If your organisation’s MVP to adopting Agile has “Use customer feedback to grow our product” anywhere but at the top of your “Product backlog” – you’re on course for some skinny Agile.

Sure, adding some XP or SCRUM events and ideas into your organisation will help: the daily stand up, having a SCRUM board, running sprint planning meetings – all positive things. But without the feedback?

Man, those oats, rice cakes, pieces of fruit? All good & beneficial – but without that protein (customer feedback!) dont expect to see any  significant changes to your body.

4 thoughts on “That’s what I call Skinny Agile.

  1. “The Agile approach measures success as delivering a product that the customers actually want”

    What about situations where Agile has allowed a company to realise that it is not worth continuing with a project and therefore they decide to kill it early on, instead of wasting a massive amount of budget to find out it was pointless at the end? I’d see that as a success as well.

    So, I think what you mean to say is that you need to, as Kent Beck says, ‘Inspect and Adapt’. After every iteration, assess the lay of the land and make decisions on where to go next based on that.

    That to me, is one of the key principles of it all. Without that, the rest is kind of pointless.

  2. The Agile approach measures success as delivering a product that the customers actually want”

    What about situations where Agile has allowed a company to realise that it is not worth continuing with a project and therefore they decide to kill it early on, instead of wasting a massive amount of budget to find out it was pointless at the end? I’d see that as a success as well.

    So, I think what you mean to say is that you need to, as Kent Beck says, ‘Inspect and Adapt’. After every iteration, assess the lay of the land and make decisions on where to go next based on that.

    That to me, is one of the key principles of it all. Without that, the rest is kind of pointless.

  3. Love this, written creativity and spoken from one human being to another. Great explanation to agile thinking and most importantly will take away the emphasis of the feedback loop. Will definitely be checking back!

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