Agile: Having the faculty of quick motion in the limbs; apt or ready to move; nimble; active; as, an agile boy; an agile tongueAgile has become fashionable. Everything from Scrum to Network Attached Storage is going to help your company become more agile. At least if you believe what the advertising hype tells you. So agility has become something companies want. OK. But how many of them have thought through what that really means?
While discussing the product backlog with a student at my Scrum class (an employee of a well known national institution), we discovered an interesting confict:
- Student: How do you know when a release will be ready?
- Me: Take the product backlog, which is sorted by priority. Combine feature sizes with estimated velocity per sprint, to group features into sprints. That, the sprint length and a calendar give you the estimated completion date for each feature.
- Student: But the Product Owner can change his mind? Those features are not committed.
- Me: Right, only the Sprint Contract is a binding committment. Until the start of the sprint, the product owner can change the priorities of the product backlog. Only the sprint backlog is binding.
- Student: But management expects schedules to be a commitment! Can we really deliver to a commitment?
- Me: well, you could limit the product owner and say, you're not allowed to change anything...
- Student: but that wouldn't be very agile.
- Me: No, it wouldn't. Being agile is about being able to change your mind (and the discipline to do it sensibly). By committing in detail to your course of action for the next 6 months, you become languid, lethargic, ponderous, slow and unresponsive.