7 Common Agile Myths

Insights | 27 May 2016

Whether you like, love or loath the term ‘agile’; whether you are an agilest, traditionalist, agnostic or sceptic, the term ‘agile’ cannot be ignored, avoided or brushed under the carpet.

Here’s a collection of the common myths about that topical term ‘agile’:

1. Agile is a passing fad. It’s a mere trend, fashion or craze, or is it? Did you realise that the term ‘agile’ as we apply it today was ‘created’ back in 2001 with the Agile Manifesto? Note that the word ‘agile’ has its origin in Middle French, from the Latin agilis. The first known everyday use was in 1581!

‘Agile’ today is an umbrella term which includes many different agile methods and practices implemented globally, in business as usual and the project environment.

2. You don’t need any documentation in agile. Just because the Manifesto for agile Software Development (commonly known as the Agile Manifesto) states:

“…we have come to value…

Working software over Comprehensive documentation”

Suddenly we find in the translation to everyday life, this becomes ‘no documentation’. Take a step back and understand the true essence of the Agile Manifesto: remember while there is value in the items on the right (eg comprehensive documentation), the items on the left (eg working software) are of greater value.

The reality is that agile methods are not about ‘no documentation’ but the right documentation, just enough, at the right time.

3. We can just do it. ‘You don’t need to do any planning in agile.’ Ouch! Anyone practising Scrum will tell you that a Sprint (think 2-4 week timebox) includes Sprint Planning. Sprint Planning answers:

  • What can be done this Sprint?
  • How will the chosen work get done?

AgilePM® (based on DSDM®) sums up planning in an agile environment:

“Planning to sensible horizons at the right level of detail”.

Remember it is still about responding to change over following a detailed, ‘set in concrete’ plan.

4. Agile = no governance or control. ‘The team just does what they want when they feel like it’. What a nightmare for Senior Executives!  Agile approaches are not about being ‘ad hoc’ and doing what you want when you want it. Consider the following statement from The Scrum Guide™:

“The rules of Scrum bind together the events, roles and artefacts, governing the relationships and interaction between them”.

Simply put – agile approaches still require rules, roles, artefacts and governance to operate effectively.

5. Agile = a Kanban board with ‘post its’.  Walk past many large offices or city buildings and you see the tell-tale signs of the post it notes plastered on windows and walls.  The Kanban or team board is a visual technique applied within the agile world – be careful however:

“One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day…”


Don’t get me wrong – the concept of ‘to do’, ‘WIP’ and ‘done’ is great, but a team board alone does not equate to being ‘agile’!

6. Agile is only for IT. Yes the original Agile Manifesto refers to software and many agile methods focus specifically on IT (e.g. ASD, Crystal, DAD, DevOps, FDD, eXtreme Programming) but agile methods can be applied in other environments and industries. Think for example DSDM®/AgilePM®, Lean Startup, Kanban and Scrum – these can be applied in any environment, not just IT.

7. Agile is a project management method. If you are only thinking DSDM®/ AgilePM® then yes we are talking a framework for Agile project management and delivery.  If however, we turn to Scrum or Kanban or even Lean for example, this is where the waters get muddied.  All three can be used as approaches within a project but they are not project management methods.

Alternatively an approach like PRINCE2 Agile® could be applied, utilising PRINCE2® at the project management level and incorporating agile methods at the delivery level.

“PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile do not favour one agile approach over any other (this is sometimes referred to as being ‘agile agnostic’)…”


AXELOS, PRINCE2® and PRINCE2 Agile® are registered trade marks of AXELOS Limited. DSDM and AgilePM are registered trademarks of Dynamic Systems Development Method Limited in the United Kingdom and other countries. The Scrum Guide™ is a trade mark of Scrum.Org and ScrumInc.

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