Business Value is not the only reason to adopt Agile

Agile Rob posted a column a few days ago entitled, "If You Don’t Focus on Business Value, Don’t Adopt Agile." He tweeted it out and after reading it, I replied that I did not entirely agree. Rob asked that I post a comment on his blog. The following is an extended/modified version of that reply.

I read two articles today, "Adopting Agile Isn't The Point", by Mike Cottmeyer and "If You Don’t Focus on Business Value, Don’t Adopt Agile.", by Robert Dempsey. Rob's posting is an expression of agreement with Mike's.

Mike's basic point is that we can lose the sight of our actual goal when we phrase our efforts in terms of task rather than objective. "When we allowed ourselves to define our work in terms of our activities, we risked losing focus on the desired outcome of the project."

He then applies this to Agile adoptions. The goal is not to have a Scrum master or to do TDD. "Those things are the stuff we do to get the desired business outcome."

You can analogously extend this to other areas of your life. I am a runner. I've set a 5k goal time for myself. In order to get there, I've laid out a plan that includes certain tasks on certain days. My goal is not to run 30+ miles per week. My goal is not to do 8 weeks of hill training. My goal is to run the 5k faster than a certain pace. If I need to adjust the tasks, so be it. If I focus on the tasks, I lose sight of the goal. I may very well finish 8 weeks of hill training and find myself injured.

I agree with Mike.

Rob takes this fundamental premise and extends it to say, "If you don't focus on business value, don't adopt agile."

This I do not entirely agree with.

This, to me, is similar to, "If you don't focus on cardio-vascular health, don't take up running." While cardio-vascular health is a significant and worthy objective, it is not the only reason to run. Fortunately, it is a common and beneficial side effect.

I might adopt agile to improve code quality, to deliver in smaller increments, or to improve communication. These are also valuable and worthy objectives. They are likely to add value to the business as a common and beneficial side effect. Just as a goal of a certain time in the 5k can result in improved cardio-vascular health.

The point is that we know our true goals and objectives. That we know why we are performing certain tasks. And that we not confuse the tasks with the desired outcome. This is not the same as saying there is only one true desired outcome.

Adopting agile isn't the point. Business value doesn't have to be either.