Aug 3, 2006

Why is the agile message not getting out?

There was a post on the scrumdevelopment mailing list asking why the agile message was not being picked up as clearly as we wish. Why do people not "get it"?

The problem as I see it is to do with the fundamental differences in the principles underlying both waterfall and agile development. It's the difference between management and leadership - both of which are terms bandied about interchangeably by people who don't often understand the difference.

Management is directing & controlling a process (ie having control)
Leadership is influencing & trusting people (ie releasing control)

There's an Agile Manifesto describing the principles behind agile projects. I think a "Waterfall Manifesto" would be something like
  • Process & tools over individuals & interactions
  • Following a plan over responding to change
  • Contract negotiation & self-protection over collaboration & trust
  • Comprehensive documentation over useful software

Waterfall = Management
Agile = Leadership

Leadership is a helluva lot harder than management, especially for techies-turned-bosses. Let's face it soft skills are hard to teach and people are such unpredictable things! ;-)


  1. I agree, running agile projects is all about leadership and little to do with traditional project management.

    We have to encourage people to look into the leadership domain for best practice and guidance, but many people seem reluctant to do so. I think one problem is the stigma associated with the term "Leadership", it seems elitist and puts people off. Yet, leadership is really all about empowering others.

    I’m looking for ways to draw the agile community towards leadership adoption and would appreciate any thoughts you have on this.


    Mike Griffiths

  2. It could be that most people think about leadership as something that only occurs at the very top of the organisation.

    That's wrong of course, but it's a common misconception. How to overcome that misconception is a hard one. Maybe we need a new term that implies leadership and governance, but that hasn't been warped too far from it's real meaning...