One Way to Convince Your Manager to Try Agile

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I saw a flamebait of a post today that’s fairly critical of the agile direction software development is taking .

Finishing it, I realized that it was either some kind of sarcastic rant or egotistic power trip, but it got me thinking. Doubting, even.

“Why is Agile Better?”, I asked myself.

Why do managers allow technology groups do a 180 on how they build things? I mean, imagine if a construction company told you they were going to build and finish your house a single room at a time. You’d probably punch them in the face.

I started doubting myself.

“Maybe traditional waterfall monolithic IS the better way.”
“Maybe we’re just lazy wimps”.
“Maybe agile is just a fad, like Hypercolor”.

Finally I took a deep, calming breath. I remembered why managers let us do agile-ish things. Risk.

Risk is what convinces managers to do agile, whether they know it or not.

I’m not saying there aren’t other good reasons, but no manager is truly concerned with your personal comfort while programming. They don’t care how happy you are or how bleeding edge your methodology is. They only care that the project is done on time and that their boss is happy.

I’ll prove it. When was the last time that you had a looming deadline and your manager said, “Aw, let’s just move the live date back a few weeks. I don’t want you getting all bent out of shape and stressed out. Your comfort is more important than a silly deadline”? It’s a manager’s job to care about results, not comfort or fun.

Arguments about “It’s more in tune with how people work”, or “It’s nimble”, don’t really resonate with managers. But risk, there’s something that makes their ears pick up.

Managers love to manage risk, and agile helps. It lowers the chances of a live date arriving with nothing ready for launch. Agile helps get the most important parts production-ready first. If the entire development team is struck by a single Bus Of Doom and wiped out, the project can still launch with the highest priority features complete. This gives managers warm fuzzy sensations they aren’t used to feeling ( because of the risk avoidance part, not the dev team being wiped out ).

Classical waterfall stinks at mitigating risk. Everyone has experiences to back that up. The project that’s perpetually 90% complete. The Case of the Missing Fifty Pages of Requirements. The Gotcha from Hell. All these are cases where the big day comes around and there’s absolutely zilch to show for it. That’s risky.

If you have a superninja waterfall strike team, then waterfall might be just the thing for you. If you’re like every shop I’ve ever worked for or heard of, you’re praying for some agile, any agile, to kick in and save you. I say play the risk card and see if the managers take the bait.

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