Agile Deepities

A “deepity” is a statement that sounds profound but isn’t. “To the extent that it’s true, it doesn’t have to matter. To the extent that it has to matter, it isn’t true (if it actually means anything).” <See Deepity>

“Agile is a culture!” and “Agile is a mindset!” are deepities. To the extent they are true, they tells us almost nothing useful or actionable. If we are trying to convince people that there are better ways of working, they are counterproductive because they cause frustration.

“Sure, but HOW do we improve? Tell me something I can use! What’s the process?”

“Agile isn’t a process!”

That flawed understanding of “Agile” is why some people claim that documentation and planning aren’t “Agile” either. That’s a good way to fail. “Process” is specifically called out as something that does exist in the Manifesto. It’s just less important than people working together. Let’s eliminate all processes and see how “Agile” we are. Hint: we aren’t.

“Process: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.”

Is “Agile” the desired end? OMG, no! The desired end is the continuous delivery of value to the end-user.

What are the steps?

  • We need to systematically tear down silos and organize communication paths to reduce information loss so that we can…
  • Systematically reduce the cost of change so that we can…
  • Systematically reduce changeset size so that we can…
  • Get faster feedback on the quality of our ideas and adjust to deliver better outcomes.
  • We need to use good development practices to reduce production waste.
  • We need to use good marketing and user research practices to reduce bad or irrelevant ideas.

We don’t need an “Agile mindset.” We need a mindset of “deliver useful things to the end-user so they want to use our products. Do it at a total cost that allows us to do sustainably and do it better than the competition. If we don’t then we cease to have users.” We need a mindset of “what we are doing is probably wrong. How can we find out quickly and adjust?”

Improving the flow of product delivery isn’t a culture or a mindset. Culture is an outcome of how an organization works. “Mindset” is something people have. A toxic culture will not work as well as a generative culture, but it can still result in better outcomes than a generative culture with the wrong goals or wrong processes to achieve them.

We don’t convince decision-makers with “culture” and “mindset”. We convince design makers with better outcomes and then show industry data on how better processes encourage a culture where improvement can flourish so we can better meet our value delivery goals.


Written on May 3, 2022 by Bryan Finster.

Originally published on Medium