Forrester and the obfuscation of Agile

24 Nov 2014
Submitted by croga

Forrester's Phil Murphy, in his piece "Express Lean, Agile, And DevOps Cultural Changes In Terms Of Business Value" wrote: "we all have to express Lean/Agile/DevOps jargon in terms of business benefit and value.". Let's have a detailed look at his work.

Phil tells us that the Agile terminology is unfit for use in a business environment. Terms like "Minimum viable product" and "Fail fast" would be misinterpreted by "the business" resulting in negative connotations. He states that "While Agile aficionados come to understand Agile terminology, the terms have no inherent meaning and convey no business value to stakeholders". In stating this he factually assumes that stakeholders cannot be taught. Apparently Phil assumes that it's no use trying to explain the terms.

Phil's advise is to simply not use the terms that everyone has been using for years. Don't use the industry-standard, widely accepted terms that everyone uses since that may confuse the stakeholders. You know, those same stakeholders of whom a large number have already used those terms before since the methodology and it's jargon has been around for years already. No, instead we should CHANGE the terms to acceptable management speak. Acceptable management speak is the jargon of the CxOs and thus is likely to be more acceptable than the standard terms.
The biggest problem is that Phil's obfuscation advise will likely be taken to heart by those CxOs who's only agenda, really, is to look better, not work better.

I'm sorry to say this, Phil, but you're wrong. Agile/Lean/Devops terminology is straightforward. And it is like that for a reason: We're trying to make sure nothing gets hidden anymore! Yes, we want to fail fast! We don't want to do "hypothesis-driven development" because that will obfuscate what we're really doing. We want to fail fast ALWAYS, not just when we try to prove a hypothesis. We don't want "Tiger teams". Heck; that term has even less business value than "Self-driven development teams". We want the latter because we want ALL development to be driven by the team. And yes, including the stakeholders in the team is inherent to that. And because we include the stakeholders, we can also just simply explain the term. Especially since we think they're smart enough to understand what is meant.

The bottom line is; I agree with Phil. There's a lot of people out there that DO explain the Agile terminology wrong. But time and time I find that those that think "More Crapplications" when we say "Minimum viable product" are those that don't want to understand it. Those that are afraid of the change. You can't solve that by changing the terminology, you can only change that by education. In the field. Face to face. Without obfuscation!