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“It’s new and it’s shiny! I want some! The cool kids all have it!” Unless you’re not yet quite six, hearing this kind of thing sets off all sorts of alarm bells. For me… well, it’s just another thing that makes me Always Grumpy.

Over the past week or so it’s occurred to me that some of our corporate decision-makers might have become infected with the Agile bug. It’s a horrible thing! Like some plants (or people) it’s exactly what you want in one small part of your metaphorical garden, and a noxious weed everywhere else. Read on, there’s a song coming up!

Never mind that it’s over a decade old, the Agile Manifesto has grown in popularity; its original application, as Agile Development, has spread (if you can find it in your heart to forgive the pun) like, well, a weed. As a software development tool, it’s certainly got its place. And even grafted into decision-making, as Agile Management, it can sometimes be useful. But like mint or dandelions (or that guy who’s great at controlling meetings) it will spread out of control if you let it loose even for a second.

Here’s the thing: our corporate leaders know about Agile now. The airline magazine agrees with the latest hot management tome and this quarter’s business process consultants that it’s the best thing evarrrr, and they’re going to use it! It’s sparkly and trendy and they want to apply it to everthing, everywhere, all the time. Never mind that experts will tell you it’s not a tool for making critical decisions or even for developing critical infrastructure – see for example Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed (Boehm, B. & Turner, R.; 2004: Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley. pp. 55–57. ISBN 0-321-18612-5). Or maybe they were taught Agile methodology in a management seminar somewhere and they just don’t know better. Either way, I suspect that this is part of what’s driving some of the constant re-work and decision paralysis that plague our enterprises today, like rampant adaptive weeds choking off a formerly planned and formal garden: it feels productive, because they’re busy with their decisions. Oy.

So never mind the title of this post, which suggests an evil anatomical improbability that I’m sure none of our corporate leaders has ever tried even metaphorically, while gardening or otherwise. With apologies to The Byrds; to the late, great Pete Seeger; to the translators and authors responsible for the lovely wording of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 in the King James version of the Bible; and possibly even to King Solomon himself, I’ve written some new lyrics. Go ahead, sing them to the tune of that old folk-rock standard, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (you’ll probably remember it best as performed here):

For everything – churn, churn, churn
There is a reason – churn, churn, churn
And a rhyme to every project micromanaged

A time to make plans, a time to discuss
A time to recant, a time to recap
A time to change minds, a time to repeat
A time to laugh, a time to weep

For every project – churn, churn, churn
There is a spreadsheet – churn, churn, churn
With a time for every action under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to re-plan, a time to re-map
A time to change your mind again
A time to gather your comments together

To everything – churn, churn, churn
There is a season – churn, churn, churn
And a time to make decisions last forever

A time of hope, a time of despair
A time for lunch, a long coffee break
A time you meet all in a room
A time to refrain from meeting

For everything – churn, churn, churn
There is a reason – churn, churn, churn
And a rhyme to every project micromanaged

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to restart, a time to stay late
A time for love, a time for hate
An implementation, I swear it’s not too late!

Now go back to work. And look at your own projects: what’s the best methodology? Agile? Waterfall? Formal? If your boss insists on methodology first, chances are you need to take this counter-example (as reported in The Register) and think before you jump.

Jonathan Gladstone is alwaysgrumpy at jbglad59.ca@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @jbglad59.

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2 Comments

  1. applause

    Like

  2. What is Agile!? Tried but couldn’t figure it out! But I loved the new words you wrote to the song!
    Sent from my iPhone
    >

    Like


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