Let’s go back to the introduction to this series, note #1, when we tried to pin down the meaning of Jazz… and we found that there wasn’t a single definition! Even more, famous jazzman Thelonious Monk even went further and proposed that there didn’t exist any definition, but that you are “supposed to know it when you hear it”! So, the question “Is this Jazz?” becomes hard to answer… and we may have a similar problem with Agile methodologies!

Consider all we have been suggesting. After all the improvisations, amendments, additions and subtractions, and all sort of changes that we have seen, it’s quite likely that whatever we arrive at, even if we started from a well known Agile framework or methodology, will have differences –some minor, others major– and we could then ask “Is this Agile?

The key point is that “Agile” is not, per se, a methodology; rather, a framework (or even a “frame of mind) that proposes several alternatives to the more classic and traditional project management methods. Whenever we call a methodology “agile”, we are really saying that it shares some common values and ideas, such as working in incremental ways, in iterative fashion, with empirical and frequent feedback, accepting change as a given, and all the basic concepts in the Agile Manifesto that we mentioned at the start of this series of notes. Each specific methodology has its own roles, responsibilities, practices, etc., and this makes the difference between, say, Scrum and Kanban, but their foundations are the same.

Basically, no matter whatever modifications you do, the key to asking if “Is it Agile?” is to answer several alternative questions, such as “Are we finding what’s best for our client?”, “Are we providing value in an agile fashion?”, “Are we adapting to find better ways of working?”, and the like.

So, we are NOT proposing to simply take any given agile methodology, and just chop away whatever you don’t like (or understand!) and add anything that you happen to do, just because you are used to it. Adopting a methodology is usually hard, and at the start you may not be sure why we have to do this or that, and you’ll find some difficulties. Don’t change anything right then! First, try to apply the methodology to the letter, with no ifs and buts, and only then, start thinking about enhancing your ways.

So… to answer the “Is it agile?” question, you’ll just have to answer if your way of doing things really answers the questions above. And, as a final reflection, we can quote another famous jazz pianist and composer, Duke Ellington, and simply remember that the end results are what counts!

P.S. The two jazzmen in this note have widely different styles, but both are considered milestones in Jazz music, with well known and often played compositions. To see the differences between them, consider for example the Duke playing “Take the A train” or “African Flower”, and Monk with “‘Round Midnight” and “Don’t blame me”.

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