Agile is a moral imperative.
It is a measuring stick – a tool that lets you ask the question of yourself – how well am I treating those I work with? How well am I leveraging my gifts and the gifts of the people around me for the benefit of the organization and the population that it serves.
Agile is not the path of least resistance.
After a while in the software industry I developed what I think is a pretty common assumption – that we are slowly becoming more enlightened, and that the following generations won’t even remember what it was like to do software in a top-down, serialized, homogenized way (e.g. using the evil and ubiquitously feared “waterfall” method). I’ve discovered over the last several years – that every generation rediscovers and reignites their passion for controlling, attempting to eliminate unpredictability and (intentionally or unintentionally) manipulating others for their own benefit. Every generation reinvents Waterfall.
This is because it’s intuitively right on the surface – and because it takes deep curiosity, and tremendous amounts of earnest energy to get past that intuitive crust to the meaty, counterintuitive center of the issue. Breaking past waterfall requires special people – especially invested in each other, longing to build something great.
Agile does NOT scale.
Again – a totally intuitive thing to look for, Scaled Agile simply doesn’t exist. In our eagerness to produce as much as possible as fast as possible (I’m being generous here – the real blinding factor might more likely be a deep, abiding greed – looking to make as much money in the shortest amount of time), we want to scale our business rapidly, and by extension anything that makes our business run.
Scaling is the art of throwing more raw resources at a thing and getting more finished product. People being the raw resource of Agile – you cannot simply throw more people at a software shop and get more agile.
The real question is – “How do we scale our business while continuing to have Agile characteristics (empowerment, full context, rapidly adapting to change, and generally treating people well)?” The answer is to structure your organization such that all decisions are pushed to the lowest possible level and that context is not removed for the sake of short-term goals.
Agile is hard work.
The answer to the implied question “then what do we do?” – is that we think. We choose not to do something because of its level of required effort. We decide that we want to treat people well, add value to the greatest extent possible, and build a great organization. Then we do the hard work to think through the myriad of counter-intuitive but high-leverage problems that make the rediscovery of Waterfall such an inevitability in a world with no shortage of people looking for the easy way.