Top 10 Assumptions About Agile

You thought it was true, but it’s not. In our Agile training classes, we come across many common assumptions that can cause problems on your journey. Here are some of the top myths.

  1. Agile is Scrum
    agile, agile umbrella, agile vs scrum

    • Agile and Scrum are often used interchangeably, but Agile is a set of values based on the Agile Manifesto. It is about what you want to BE as an organization. Scrum is an Agile framework, but so are XP, LeSS, SAFe, and Kanban.
  2. You must use Scrum
    • Since there are many options under the umbrella term of Agile, you don’t have to use Scrum. It’s a good place to start. It’s the most popular Agile approach. But other approaches might fit better for your context.
  3. You must use SAFe
    • Like Scrum, SAFe (the Scaled Agile Framework) is the most popular scaling framework (and perhaps for reasons that aren’t all good). But that doesn’t mean SAFe necessarily the best for your context. We’ve seen success with SAFe, but also like what we’ve experienced with LeSS, Scrum at Scale and the Spotify Model.
  4. SAFe is evil.
    • There is a lot of resistance to SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) in the Agile community, mostly regarding what is seen as an overly-burdensome, prescriptive process. Although it’s certainly bigger than any other approach, I’ve seen some companies do some really good things that might not have happened unless that was the guidance/requirement. Leaders being trained and expected to guide the transformation, limiting the WIP of business initiatives before they even get to planning and execution level, and (stated) high regard for technical practices are just some behaviors I see in SAFe, but not as often in other adoptions. SAFe does themselves no favors, though, when trainers (coaches) can be approved in just four days of training, nor that the majority of SAFe SPCs work for Big Consulting, or that often SAFe was a mandate from above. For more on positives (and concerns) about SAFe, I wrote about SAFe vs LeSS (Large Scale Scrum).
  5. You only need to train the ScrumMaster
    • You can avoid so many problems and delays with teams by simply training them in order to A) have shared understanding and B) have an expert hear them out and address their concerns. No need for a new Scrum Master to try and win over resistors while simultaneously kicking off an agile transformation. More on getting started with Scrum and a short Agile 101 overview video.
  6. All Scrum training is the same
    • The market demand for Scrum and Agile has lead to many, many certifications (and many more trainers who can give those out). To become one of these other trainers, sometimes all that is required is to fill out a form and pay a fee. Other times it means attending training and perhaps pass a test. Rarely it involves a “train the trainer” training. But the rarest is the Scrum Alliance trainer requirement to have proven knowledge, proven training experience and proven training ability.
  7. All requirements must be in User Story format
    • Scrum doesn’t dictate how to structure requirements. There’s a little cargo cult here. If an engineer thinks it is silly to have to write a technical backlog item in User Story format, that’s because it is.
  8. DevOps is all about tooling
    • Yes, the toolchain is integral, but DevOps is foundationally about a cultural shift and set of frameworks (CALMS, Three Whys, and Technical and Management Practices of High-Performing DevOps Teams). Also,  the foundation of DevOps training is based on the XP (Extreme Programming) practices, such as TDD, pair and mob programming.
  9.  You can’t switch approaches
    • We’ve seen Scrum teams move to Kanban, and SAFe move to Scrum at Scale and LeSS, Scrum and Kanban combined to for Scrumban, and more. The point is to BE agile, and what you DO is a continuous improvement and learning journey.
  10. It’s an IT thing. Leadership doesn’t need to be involved.
    • To paraphrase something recently shared during one of our team meetings, “Agile transformation is won or lost in the executive room and with the business.” Leaders lead change. We have a number of posts on tools and Agile leadership training.