Friday, June 16, 2006


Agile is a process which only works in an isolated bubble away from the "tokyo" or "real world". The problem with this is that you'll invariably have to force it upon real people in the real world and will, therefore, be unable to choose exactly how your real team is structured. Therefore, in every Agile implementation there should be an "engawa" phase, or "shoehorning". The shoehorning comprises three different processes:
  1. Substitution - where a missing requirement of Agile is provided by an inappropriate person - for instance, choosing a "customer" who is, in fact, not clear on how to choose requirements. This works best when you give the person you choose a confusing/misleading title.
  2. Artificial inclusion - including people in the composition of the team because they're there, rather than because the process can possibly make use of them. A good example of this would be to include the person who designs the packaging in a project that has no packaging yet and isn't likely to for a while. The artificially included person may remain idle, or, if they're really keen, invent work for themselves to do, which is ultimately valueless, or has a lower value-ratio than makes it worthwhile. It's best if that person could have been of more use elsewhere in the company while they've been sitting misused in your team.
  3. Rationale invention - for every illogical think you've done, especially those which challenge the nature of the organisation you've imposed on, you must find an explanation which is at least vaguely feasible. This process of rationalisation offers something to report up to board level on your activities. It does not have to be true or make sense.
The process of shoehorning is very delicate and can lead to rejection of Agile if you get it wrong. The best thing to do is respond very quickly to criticism, either shouting it down or producing further substitutes, inclusions or rationales. Alternatively, keep rewriting the rule book on how the team is composed so that nobody knows exactly what is going on. This will avoid people seeing the cracks in your process through which the lifeblood of your company drains.