We can’t do Agile.

Over the years, I’ve heard many variations of “we can’t do Agile”:

Agile doesn’t allow for proper thoughtful design.
Our project \ organization is too big to do Agile.
Agile is really just a dev thing.
Agile just isn’t reality.

I realize that behind every single “we can’t do Agile” statement, there’s a story. My intent here isn’t to delve into the stories of Agile woe… rather, I would like to open a small crack for the “we can’t do Agile” crowd.


1. Have you ever stopped yourself from sending an email, and instead decided to walk over and have a conversation with a team mate?

2. Have you ever argued to make the right fix on your project, even if it went against the requirements \ spec document?

3. Have you ever sought out feedback from your customer or end user in order validate your understanding of a project?

4. Have you ever adjusted your project plan in light of new feedback (user based or technological)?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you successfully “did Agile”! Consider the values of Agile below and review the questions above again respectively…

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

4. Responding to change over following a plan

Viewed in the light of Agile values, many teams are already adopting Agile methods… albeit implicitly. Embracing these values in a more explicit fashion opens a door of possibilities… among these possibilities would be to let go of the idea that “we can’t do Agile”.

Seeking Feedback: Value of the Agile Coach

Recently, I have been deconstructing with curiosity my role as an Agile Coach.

Let me begin by saying how committed I am personally and professionally to the deeper understanding of Agile and Lean. Putting these values and principles into practice over the past few years has given my work meaning in so many ways. 

That being said, I have failed to appreciate the importance of how the organization views these skills…

I believe that a good Agile coach acts almost imperceptibly.  Building courage, simplicity, communication, feedback and respect… all that a coach does in order to build a stronger and more effective team might not be obvious. Indeed, as coaches, we can become so focused on the success of the team that we may risk neglecting looking after our interests within the organization.

That is to say, there may not be clear evidence of the coach’s value to the organization. So while executives may recognize the improved effectiveness of the team, they mistakenly begin to assume that the coach’s skills have been captured by the team itself.  They then conclude that this process can be reproduced (rubber stamp like) to other teams.  To borrow Dave Snowden’s analogy… they believe that “having a good recipe” is the same as “having a good chef”.

As practitioners of evidence based learning and progress, how do Agile coaches provide evidence of their value to an organization?  Is this even skillful or necessary to do so? I look forward, dear readers, to your feedback…