D RPanic is not an Agile Methodology

January 7th, 2024 6:24 pm

When I was younger, back when CafePress was a thing, I used to sell a bumper sticker that said “Panic is not an Agile methodology“.

I still stand by that statement, but today I’d probably say “Over-reactivity doesn’t jive with the principles behind the Agile movement“. It’s more accurate, but way less catchy. Definitely not bumper sticker material.

Agile emerged from the recognition that requirements can’t be set in stone. Waterfall, early RUP, and other methodologies we used before the turn of the century assumed we had requirements and could iterate our way toward them. But requirements shift, priorities shift, and sometimes there’s a fire in the datacenter and you can’t put off dealing with it until next month.

The flexibility that Agile promises comes with responsibility. We can pivot, even mid-sprint if we have to. But we have to recognize the impact every change has on the people involved. If we react to every new thing that comes in and make it our top priority, then we’ve lost the integrity of the sprint cycle. People need predictability. They need to know what they’re working on today, tomorrow, and next week if possible. Take that away and they’ll take a hit to their psychological safety. Take that away, and they aren’t going to be able to do good work.

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