Pondering the Agile “Don’t Know” Methodology

DontKnowMethodIf you haven’t already heard the buzz, the VersionOne State of Agile Survey 2011 is now out and it is packed full with some great information.   The survey is a helpful resource to quantify what people are doing and the value they have realized or have not realized through their particular agile implementation.  As part of teach agile and speaking to the delivery methods used, I often reference the pie chart that shows the Agile Methodology Used and I updated my training materials with these latest results.  One thing really jumped out at me and made me go, “huh?”  That was that 8% of the respondents answered “Don’t Know” to the question of “What agile methodology do you use?”  That is roughly 500 of the over 6,000 respondents.  And like any good agile metric, seeing this only made me ask questions and hypothesize as to why that many folks answered “Don’t Know”.

The first though I had is training.  Yes coming from a guy that does coaching, that is the first thing I thought of.  But not for the reasons you may think.  If you think about it, the amount of teams applying agile climbing the blade of the hockey stick and as someone who has seen the benefits in product outcomes and overall organizational morale – this is great!  But, the challenge is with adopting agile it does require training the team members so that they, the TEAM, can make the transition successful and help adapt, adjust, and evolve the methods used to fit their development environment.  In Agile, the TEAM owns the process and the TEAM are empowered to make it successful.  This is much different than traditional project management where you can focus training on just those folks in leadership positions and the project managers.  The team just needs to know where to report time, and know how to write up their status reports.  So, if the team has not been trained on what agile is and the surround methods and processes, then I can understand when you ask them “Do you do agile?”, “Yes”, “What agile method do you use?”, “I don’t know.”

The second reason I can think of why folks answered “Don’t Know” is that they are leveraging multiple concepts from the various methodologies – including agile and traditional project management.  The survey did allow folks to answer “Hybrid” (9% of respondents answered), but in my discussions with teams lately – the application of Agile principles is the beginning focus with the adopting and adapting processes is much more flexible.  Teams are starting with one method and morphing to another, and in some cases leveraging a little bit from everything.  This approach can be good and bad, depending on the maturity of the team and the ability to continuously improve.

Besides the answer of “ignorant blissfulness,” the only other thought I had for the “Don’t know” response are those that work at organizations that have heard about this Agile thing and decided that they will become Agile.  So they leveraged Find and Replace to put the word Agile in place of whatever methodology they were using before.
So, what are your thoughts?  If you participated in the State of Agile Survey this year, why did you answer “Don’t Know”?