And Agile for All

That is one of the most interesting thoughts I have ever had regarding to the agile way of developing software. As I am a big fan of agile, I'm always saying simply: And Agile for All… But no, not for All.

The history of agile is settled very deeply in the culture, thus the country and people that have created it. It was developed by us, us from Europe, US and all countries around us (with all respect to them). It was developed with all principles that are important for this way of thinking, living and finally in doing projects. Democracy, freedom, revolution, experimentation and riot also. That are all good and bad things, that allow us do think independently, allow us to be creative, allow us to be agile.

I have now an opportunity to work on an agile project in far-far East, exactly in Japan. The far-far East is simply not agile. And there is nothing wrong or bad about it. It is just the history of that nation that is different comparing to ours.

I'm currently in Tokyo and it is snowing. It is an untypical weather for this small dot on the world map. But anyway the weather forecast has spoken about bad weather coming for about one week ago. They were even able to say that the heaviest snowfall will come at 3am at the morning next day. Yes, 3pm., exactly. Can you imagine such exact forecast in Europe? I don't think so. Ok, it is nothing about high end forecast "made in Japan", it is just simply an island here and they are able to observe the neighborhood and the ocean to provide such a perfect forecast. It is simply not agile, it is simply a snowfall, hmm… like waterfall, you know what I mean.

Additionally this nation is educated without agility in its life. Children go to school wearing strictly defined clothes and have to follow strictly defined rules of the school life. There is no graffiti on the walls; there are no broken things around, any trash on the streets. Everything is "almost perfect" and boring. It is uncommon to give a tip in a restaurant, so you are not able to judge the service. There is no contact between individuals in the metro because even if he or she would be worth of it, they are sleeping or playing around with all those modern electronic stuff you can buy here everywhere (mobile phones, Sony Portable, Nintendo DSi etc.). Even when eating, at the table, they get a dish set with predefined order of plates on it. Rice bowl to the left, the miso soup bowl to the right (or backwards, I don't know exactly). Try to change the order, it will be funny.

There is no place for agility here. No place for abstraction, revolution or simply own initiative. And consequently, in an agile project try to push something through, like self-organizing teams, real feedback and so on…

And Agile for All. Here? Forget it.



  1. Please remember that the Nipponese also devised the Toyota Production System, which at least some say is the basis for many of the agile approaches in use today (see e.g. Kanban).

    Which means, not all is black and white. Even if, at times, it feels like it.

  2. Yes you are right. I love Lean but the guys here have developed it for the production purporses where the aim is to get repeatable results, so where the variability is totaly bad. In case of agile development the variablity is simply great and core, because we have to easily react on unique and changing customer needs.


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