Ever since the “Agile Manifesto” for software development was published about 20 years ago, Agile teams have been growing exponentially in number. At the risk of oversimplifying, Agile is an iterative approach to software development in which developers work collaboratively in small teams and deliver measurable work products in short time frames; in so doing, Agile teams are able to adapt and respond quickly to always-evolving client needs. Documented successes naturally led to the spread of Agile principles from IT to other organizational divisions. Recently, however, an article in Forbes declared “The End of Agile,” due to its scope of application having far outgrown the contexts for which Agile methodology is well-suited. But not so fast! As argued powerfully by veteran software developers Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick in their recent book, Agile Conversations, most failures of Agile are traceable not to the methodology itself, but rather to the inability and/or unwillingness of its participants to regularly engage in the challenging conversations necessitated by the Agile framework. At PMC, we’re not at all surprised by this conclusion. As our teacher Chris Argyris pointed out decades ago, promising workplace initiatives will continue to turn into “passing management fads” as long as people avoid the hard conversations that will help them truly learn from each other. For more on the why and how of difficult conversations in Agile teams, we highly recommend Squirrel and Fredrick’s excellent book.
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