Dear Agile Coach, Don’t be Flexible!

Category : AgileAgile Coach




By Vineet Patni | 13 December 2017







As Agile is about adapting to change, the title of this article is a contradictory one. Or should I say, “controversial”? Let me try to put my thoughts across to the fellow readers.


I have been interacting with Agile professionals holding various positions within their organisations. Their experience levels in “implementing” Agile range from beginners to experts. I keep hearing from them that they have their own versions of Agile in their organisations. The reason they say? They are unique, their customers and the challenges they face are different as compared to other organisations.


I totally agree on their uniqueness. But their “unique and customised” versions of Agile is what bothers me. The customisation of Agile has gone to such a great extent that it’s not agile anymore, as I see it through the eyes of an “Agile” Coach. What makes me say this? Let me point out a few cases that I have experienced as an external Agile Coach:


  • Case 1: Being selective while practicing the Agile values and principles. For example, skipping retrospectives (inspect-and-adapt) for a really long time. In some extreme cases, never doing retrospectives as they find it unnecessary and a waste of time.
  • Case 2: Changing the real essence of these principles, just to suit their practical situations. For instance, Product Owners meet the engineering teams only once a week to discuss on the status of the current work.
  • Case 3: Using Agile as a plug-in on top of the existing traditional practices. For example, having independent sub-teams of programmers and testers within their Agile teams and calling it cross-functional, continuing with the same old audit practices, etc. (Read this article: “Agile is not a Plug-in”)
  • Case 4: Waterfalling of Agile. Like, having phase-specific iterations like design, integration and hardening sprints, or phase-wise splitting of a sprint duration, etc.


In many of such instances, they try hard to convince me that “their version of Agile” is more practical, and expect me to be flexible with them in Agile implementation. Sad to say, in such organisations, Agile is no more.


So, my point is,


“An Agile Coach needs to be rigid with the Agile values and principles, and flexible with Agile methodology or framework.”


Each of the Agile methodologies, frameworks, practices and tools, has its own pros and cons. And let me say this, none of them is perfect. All are great though, and some are more great than others. So knowledge of and experience in any or all of these are certainly going to be great tools in our armoury as “Agile Coaches”. But, let’s not fall in love with any particular framework or methodology. Be unbiased. 


“Being neutral towards the choice of methodology or framework will lead to multiple opportunities for improvements and ultimately, greater client satisfaction.”


The Agile values and principles ( are powerful and complete in many ways. These are so basic and tried-and-tested human values, that these just can’t be inefficient, if understood clearly and practised truly. The real challenge for an Agile Coach is to implement the right and appropriate practices around these values and principles. Please,


Don’t customise Agile values and principles. Customise only the framework, methodology or tools. Customising Agile is actually not Agile anymore. In my opinion, it’s an abuse of Agile.”


Remember, we are “Agile” coaches first, and Scrum / Kanban / SAFe / LeSS / JIRA consultants next. As Agile Coaches, it’s our responsibility and we must do our best to prevent the abuse of Agile


About the author: 

Vineet Patni is the Founder and Principal Agile Coach at ScaleUp. An avid learner and a passionate facilitator, Vineet has been assisting enterprises and individuals in becoming truly Agile. Please feel free to connect with him at . 


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the author’s own. The author welcomes and respects any difference of opinion.

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