Don’t confuse the decorations for the process!

Or “Icing is pretty, but you need a cake too!”

Good Agile Process books will explain in chapter 1 that the stand-ups, iterations, demos, retrospectives, long planning meetings, et cetera are all “decorations” for the process.  This is an important concept that gets completely lost when they spend the next 43 chapters talking about how the decorations are used to support the process.

The decorations are not the process!

Having stand-ups does not make you agile.  Doing work in sprints does not make you agile.  Using story- cards does not make you agile.  Doing retrospectives where people share honest feedback does not make you agile (but could help you become agile if you actually take the feedback).

Agile is a business discipline.

Agile teams have the discipline to focus on delivering a product that generates revenue.  Management supporting agile teams has the discipline to reward team work.  Product owners have the discipline to provide crisp actionable priorities.  Everyone has the discipline to be transparent and willing to adapt as the environment evolves. 

These disciplines are hard to build and maintain, but they are fundamentally valuable.  They are honest and practical.  They are revolutionary.

Now, if you embrace the agile disciplines then the decorations will reinforce your efforts like mocha fudge icing on a double-dutch chocolate groom’s cake.

Unfortunately, if you lack the discipline then the decorations become a whip used to micromanage teams into a long frustrating death march.  Sadly, I’m finding that this experience is the more common one in the industry. 

Bon appetite!