Agile Doesn’t Make Sense, It Makes a Difference

Would Madonna have been successful if she had styled herself M.L. Ciccone?

I don’t think so.

Names are important. Good names can be motivating, and inspiring. They make people want to be part of the thing represented by the name. They encourage people to actually do something.

After 10 years of Agile people are suggesting to drop the “Agile” name, because it was never exactly clear what it was. Agile means many different things to different people. And Mike Cohn hopes that one day we won’t use the Agile name anymore. After all, we all know that Agile is simply common sense software development.

But earlier this week I participated in a roundtable discussion about what Agile means for organizations. And these business people all agreed that Agile motivated, inspired, and encouraged them to actually change their organizations!

The brand name “common sense” simply doesn’t have that same effect on people…

Names are Important

One of the most effective contributions Scrum has made to software development is to rename the iteration and timebox to sprint. Business people happily agree to work in sprints. Nobody cares about iterations. Does that make sense? No. But it is important…

And I still think the biggest mistake with Extreme Programming is that they called it Extreme Programming. Which people outside of software development want to associate themselves willingly with something that is extreme? Again, it doesn’t make sense. But it does make a difference.

I fully understand that Agile experts don’t need the term Agile anymore. It’s too vague and to them it’s all just about common sense software development. But we have to face the fact that common sense in this world is actually quite uncommon.

So, let’s keep the name for a while longer. Maybe the word Agile doesn’t make sense, but it does make a difference. The word might not serve a purpose to you, but it does serve a purpose to others you will work with. Why would you throw away the thing that motivates your co-workers?

Now that’s something that doesn’t make sense.

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