Ask 10 agilists how to solve a problem and you’ll get 15 answers.
And that’s because the right answer is “it depends.”
But “it depends” doesn’t sound very convincing. Or get you invited to speak at a conference. And you can forget about a Twitter following.
So, how’d we end up with so much confusion?
It’s impossible to know what works
We tell ourselves that we know what works.
And we are pretty good at recognizing patterns. Or knowing what we’ve seen fail over and over. Which means, we build some mental models based on experience.
But that’s just one specific experience.
Experience doesn’t always apply
Over the last ten years I’ve seen a lot of hyped techniques.
And those techniques were created under specific circumstances:
- Team maturity
- Speed of industry
- Demands from the business
- Impact of the work on the business
So, we end up with teams copying other teams when their circumstances are drastically different.
Just be principled, duh!
To avoid these misapplied “cargo cults” we tell people to adopt principles.
Which is hard, because principles:
- Lack context
- Are easy to misinterpret
- Don’t have a “what if” users manual
- Require a higher level of “agile fluency”
And that means struggling teams still reach for specific techniques.
We crave certainty and comfort
The reality is that it’s hard work to learn, understand, and apply principles.
And even harder to diligently adapt them to your unique day-to-day work. What we want instead is an straightforward fix. That’s why Quora, Stack Overflow, and Reddit are full of the same questions. Questions being asked over and over again. By people who just want something that works.
Unfortunately, they just get what worked for someone else.