Did Somebody Invent Agility?

There is a big hoohah going on right now about who “invented” agility. I think that the idea that somebody invented agility is nonsense, and I’ll tell you why… but let’s start at the beginning.

First of all, what is agility according to us agilistas? Well, it is just the notion of adapting to reality, inspect and adapt, replanning when we have to, etc.

Now, businesses aren’t stupid. They all want to be agile, and adapt to business realities – including adapting their software. So, why wouldn’t they? That’s simple: businesses won’t become agile until the cost of adapting is significantly less than the benefit of adapting – that’s Econ-101, right?

Once upon a time, business needs changed very slowly, so yearly releases (developed with a waterfall) was agile enough. But, we know that business needs changed faster and faster as time passed, thus applying a force FOR agility. I imagine CEOs all over the world asking “why can’t we change our plans?” and the answer being “our sofware is just too hard to change, so we’re stuck…”

Then somebody realized that object-orientation enabled more changeable code. Things could be plugged in, plugged out, and replaced. Modifications could be encapsulated, thereby reducing risk of change. All of a sudden the CEOs’ question had a different answer, “maybe we can… let me check it out.” So we had another, technological, force FOR agility, object-orientation.

The results are predictable. Companies started becoming agile, with various home-grown processes. I witnessed it myself in the DoD lisp community in the early 80s. Some enterprising people documented and formalized their processes, and we eventually arrived where we are today, with a plethora of agile processes, practices, and techniques that support them.

So, somebody documented the processes that naturally arose from the forces, and all of us are thankful. But, inventing agility? I think not…

Dan 😉

Dan Rawsthorne, PhD, CST
Transformation Coach

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Posted in Agile
One comment on “Did Somebody Invent Agility?
  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s nice to see a blog out there that finally explains agile’s roots in a pragmatic way. It amazes me how many people write about agile and make it sound mystical or that it was invented by very special human being with amazing powers.

    Thank you Dan for the beautiful blog…. Keep’em coming

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