Is Your Agile Agile?

In my last blog post, I introduced the topic of this blog: The Agile Architecture Revolution. As in, architecture that is agile, not the architecture of Agile. But since this is a tech blog, it’s important that I point out the distinction — because in many cases, Agile isn’t agile at all.

The notion of Agile — that is, Agile with a capital “A” — dates to the Agile Manifesto, a set of principles for building better software by being less dogmatic about software development. The creators of the Manifesto realized that traditional coding wasn’t sufficiently focused on the goals and desires of the stakeholders, so they set out to take an iconoclastic approach instead.

I love these words “dogmatic” and “iconoclastic” because they both come from the Catholic Church. Being dogmatic originally meant following the dogma, that is, the official rules of the Church. Iconoclastic literally meant taking the icons off the walls of the Church and breaking them. Today, dogmatic means following the rules because they’re the rules, while iconoclastic has come to mean following only those rules you want to while ignoring the rest.

So, the whole point to the Agile Manifesto is to be less dogmatic and more iconoclastic about software development. Following the plan is fine, but responding to change is even more important. Never be afraid to change the plan.

But an unfortunate and ironic development has taken place in the decade or so since the release of the Manifesto: techies have become overly dogmatic about the Agile Manifesto itself! Agile methodologies have simply replaced the older approaches that led to the formation of the Manifesto, and now development teams are following the principles of those methodologies for no other reason than “that’s the way to do Scrum,” for example.

I’m not going to make that mistake. When I talk about Agile Architecture, I’m not talking about following the rules of Agile — or following any rules, for that matter. Agile Architecture is inherently iconoclastic. Will this approach shake up the world of architecture the way that the Agile Manifesto shook up software development? I certainly hope so!

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