Agile is not a buffet

I heard recently, not for the first time either, a statement along the lines of “we take the bits of agile that work for us… and leave the rest”. All this does is remind me of the Key and Peele Continental Breakfast sketch, and this situation would be funny if it wasn’t so commonplace.

This is a common mindset and, in my opinion, stems from a basic misunderstanding of what Agile actually is.

I would like this scope, delivered at this time, to this budget… In an Agile way.

A common request across the land. In this scenario we need to return to the roots of agility and educate not only the difference between empirical process control (value-led) and defined process control (plan-led) but also complexity and the correct delivery approach depending on the scenario. 

Long story short, delivering a fixed scope in increments is not Agile.

Agile starts with a mindset

Organisations always start with the tools and processes, it’s more tangible after all than behaviours or values; however, this should be seen as a byproduct, almost an end result of the groundwork required for agility. 

If we pick and choose ‘bits of Agile’ all we’re likely doing is focussing on the tools and processes without considering the wider intangibles.

How we think and behave will ultimately be what allows for success. Incremental delivery is all well and good in the short-term, but will become ineffective without highly aligned, highly autonomous teams or an organisation that is value-led and creates an environment for those teams to succeed.

ScrumBut it doesn’t work for us!

If you work in a highly certain environment with low-no complexity then you’re probably right. If, however, you work in an organisation that relies on garbage-can decision making to decide what to do (and then ask agile teams to deliver it), or has managers that are stakeholders instead of customers, then you’re potentially doing it wrong.

Scrum is a great example of misunderstanding a framework if we only focus on the mechanical elements of it and disregard the values, pillars, and purpose. Organisations believe Scrum doesn’t work for them so adjust the framework without realising this only retains the problem (but makes it invisible) so the dysfunction is no longer a thorn in the side of the team.


In my experience, the people I come across that are the most knowledgeable on Agile are those that strive to continue developing their understanding and mindset.

I also think all of them, myself included, would be happy to talk to someone with an honest interest in getting better. It’s a big community full of people that want to lift others up.

Even if you’re confident you’re doing it right, you’ll still have dysfunctions (that’s what makes it fun). It doesn’t hurt to have a chat with as many people as possible even if it just validates your thinking.