PM Essence
De-jargoning Agile – The Agile Experts
                                                                                                                      – Premalatha Balan


When “Agile” became the buzz word, suddenly it started appearing in CVs. “I have worked in Agile environment”, many say. If asked what Agile in specific, the answer may be “Scrum….” with or without a confusion in the eyes, while still thinking whether this is different or the same. Some might throw a flurry of words, Scrum, Kanban, DSDM Atern, of course Lean, Six Sigma, some might add XP, and these days you will surely find TDD, BDD. There are some more stuff such as Crystal… sorry, just got carried away! Anyway, it is a whole load of words and their rules to learn as well. Wikipedia can give some idea. Then, you will slowly hear, “hybrid”. Ask, what hybrid. Then you will hear “pragmatic” and not a “pure Agilist” or a “purist”. Then you will hear SIT and UAT as the company really cares about integration testing and quality control/assurance. This is a whole big story in itself. For the scope of this post, let us just focus on the Agile experts, aka Agilists*



Agile is a big movement happening and claiming to be changing the world. The cult followers share some secret knowledge, which they cannot share with outsiders before they become “experienced” in Agile! Confusing as it gets, just on the word “experienced” for a starter.


I wish the LinkedIn feature team did not think that the customer’s ability to resize the header picture is a nice to have* and I wish they had not deprioritised* it to the bottom of their backlog*! The above picture could have looked a lot better giving the idea of an expert! I guess the LinkedIn team do not have an UX* person in their Agile team or the UX person is just for whacking up some wireframes* so that the user story gets the green tick for their Definition of Ready*! Back to the understanding of the “experienced” Agilists, there is hardly any developer these days, who says he hasn’t worked in Agile environment before. I need to hurriedly add that I am not “that” experienced in Agile. Recruiters often make that clear to me. Not their fault. I have a clear timeline. Anyway, the experienced people are supposed to be holding the most knowledge of the cult literature. Or, if you can rote and spit out all the Japanese terms (Muda, Mura, Muri, anyone?) coupled with all the rules of the different frameworks… No one can question you! You can start a consultancy!


There was a ‘shouty shouty’ PM, how a team member introduced him to me (when the PM in question was not in sight), whacked up a couple of Agile projects, promoted another ‘shouty shouty’ business analyst as Agile coach and the PM has gone out and started his own consultancy so that he can transform the world. There was another Agile coach, who saw the team going towards the white board for the first time and was all swelling up with pride for having created a proper self-organising “scrum” team. That is “scrum”, the coach taught me. I nodded. Then there are indices and metrics developed and ready to plug & play, some companies claim, while some entice you with their promise of CoP* implemented and some companies sell “products” and “services” that will make your project Agile once the contract is signed and beware your company will be transformed too, for free. There are consultancies and consultants everywhere and everyone seem to know Agile. When I come across someone saying he/she is new to Agile and wants to learn, I wonder whether they have just been dropped off by the flying disc somewhere when I wasn’t looking.

And there is a whole load of groups and discussions with international experts contributing. You are sinned at the church of Agile if you have estimated “wrong” points for your story. There are a few discussion threads on different special groups on how and when one can claim story points. Not kidding. The first point in Agile manifesto is that “we value People and Interactions over processes and tools”! The first aspect that got devalued or valued less is “Processes and Tools”. It is a powerful thing to realise. Yet, the cult followers can only talk about the “processes” and “tools” and the “rules”!


I try to set up some best practices at home. I try to set up some simple process frameworks such as, the first thing we take off is the jacket and put it on the hanger and then take off the shoe and tidy up in the shoe rack when we come back home from outside . My daughter sits on the staircase and takes off the jacket first, spreads it on a few stairs, then takes off her shoes and keeps them on two other stairs before she begins to play. I keep saying to her, “you see, you have created a few blockers, your brother cannot run upstairs to the loo and I cannot go faster to rescue my bathroom before it gets all ‘wee-wee-ed’ all over the floor”. I slipped and fell down once trying to run over the jacket. This is an everyday story, every time we come back home from shopping or from any activity that involved us leaving the front door and coming back home. We see the same scene with such a Groundhog Day effect. Today my daughter got really upset and she put the jacket back on and left the house. My husband ran to find her. She was waiting behind the car for her daddy and discussed with him that will he have a word with mummy that she (mummy) should understand that different people do differently. As a self-respecting scrum master, all I wanted to do was to remove the blockers* and coach the person to understand, so that we can be more selforganising*! It was a revelation that I needed to learn to “be Agile*”, not try to “do Agile*” and allow different people to do differently!

But then we are not a cross functional team, we are a team of specialists with some specialising in making mess and the others in tidying up!


Peace is now restored, as the tele is on and the Netflix is evoked!



List of jargon used above and possible simple meanings:
Agilist* – A person who practices Agile.
nice to have* – A new feature or an aspect of an existing feature that can improve the product as a nicer one. List of items without which the product can still go live.


Deprioritised* – ranked down in the backlog list.

backlog* – a to do list for the product.
UX* – user experience.
Wireframes* – an image or set of images which displays the functional elements of a website or page, typically used for planning a site’s structure and functionality (courtesy – google).
Definition of Ready* – check list to consider whether a story is ready or not for code development.
CoP* – Community of Practices
Blockers* – the items that stop us from doing something.
Self-organising* – the team members organise themselves, rather than being organised by a manager – by Niels Malotaux
Be Agile* – practising Agile.
Do Agile* – following some set of rules to achieve a certain Agile method.