Agile isn’t just a buzzword

It has apparently become popular to call Agile a buzzword. I’ve read a few posts recently where the headlines (to gain hits and go against the grain, presumably) have called out the “death of Agile”. If you read further, the actual message in the majority of these posts is more about the fact that “Agile is just a buzzword”. A throwaway comment intended to provoke.

Let me get one thing out of the way – anything can be just a buzzword if you want to treat it that way. If you don’t appreciate or understand the value of something, it’s very easy (not to mention naive) to fob it off as nothing more.

What worries me is that, in this software development world, the minute you start branding something as a buzzword is the minute you give people an excuse to turn around and dismiss an entire concept. I don’t disagree with the fact that we should work with agility rather than just “be Agile”, but what does it matter? It’s just how we describe what we do – the implementation should be identical no matter how we brand it.

But it does matter, because if you brand it a buzzword, the people in the trenches are going to automatically look at it as a negative thing. Rather than getting excited about efforts by an organisation to convert to an Agile way of working, it’ll be frowned upon as a management movement adopted because it’s the popular thing to do.

The great thing about Agile is that it’s driven by collaboration, from the bottom-up. It’s driven this way because people want to be Agile. They want to work according to Agile practices. They want to work with agility. Will we lose this desire and drive now because Agile will be thought of as just another buzzword? I certainly think that if this attitude continues, this risk becomes reality.

It’s difficult enough as it is to implement good Agile practices within organisational structure and commercial projects as it is. What we, as implementers, coaches and developers don’t need is uneducated claims that “Agile is just a buzzword” getting in the way. We cannot let it become okay for this to be acceptable.

Referring to Agile as a buzzword is simply a way of disguising an undisciplined team. If something isn’t working for you for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean that it’s no longer a concept that should be appreciated by others. Instead of focusing on turning the word Agile into a negative thing, why not invest your efforts into truly living up to the Agile manifesto.

Calling Agile out as a buzzword and suggesting we should refer to it as simply working with agility is a moot point anyway. If the practices that lie behind it are the same (which they are, of course) then highlighting this whole topic is done for one reason: to disrupt and unsettle.

That part doesn’t wash well with me at all.