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AgileHeads Wrong for UX

Marcin Treder
By Marcin Treder on 29th June, 2012 Updated on 8th July, 2019

Liz Hubert wrote a blogpost on the bad role misunderstood Agile plays in a product development and in fact, why it’s wrong for User Experience (both as an outcome of UX Designer work – the product and as a community of UX Designers).

This is a subject that I tried to address several times (including humble manifesto – Design Centered Organization) and it still troubles me a lot. I used to work in Agile teams in large organization as well as at UXPin, where we use elements of Agile to work efficiently. Still I’m far from loving the Agile movement. Why?

I’ve seen misunderstood Agile spoiling whole organizations transforming them into „developers-driven” companies that were constantly unable to ship efficient products.

Wait a minute… is it really Agile’s fault? Let see what the Manifesto says:

„We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right,
we value the items on the left more.”

What we have here is a call to creation of well-working teams that are encouraged to work together and focus on shipping code rather than creating volumes of documentation. What’s more Agile Manifesto suggest that teams suppose to adapt to changes in environment.

Now, isn’t it just lovely?

By reading the Manifesto, I love Agile. At UXPin we wholeheartedly believe in power of collaboration in the design process. In fact we created UXPin to support collaboration of people with different backgrounds and perspectives (oh yes – UX designers, Visual designers and developers should work together!).

So why the hell I’ve seen so many malfunctioning Agile teams? Well, it’s not because of Agile itself, dear friends. It’s because of people that I like to call AgileHeads.

AgileHeads don’t understand the Manifesto and, as Liz pointed, they believe that developers can create stunning products themselves. I suppose AgileHeads are scared of new times in which not only technology matters. Times when design plays crucial role, arm in arm with marketing.

AgileHeads confuse software development with product development (as Liz greatly stated) and by that, they are causing great harm to the Agile movement.

Why? Because Agile is mainly about three things:

  1. Collaboration,
  2. Flexibility,
  3. Creation;

When AgileHeads create „Us vs them” tension („We don’t need any UX Designers! My devs have seen some interfaces in the past and they certainly know how to design” – actual quote from one of disrespectful AgileHeads I met) they’re breaking the rule number one. They destroy chemistry inside the team and prevent people from working together.

When they don’t see place for UX design in their process, they are breaking rule number two. AgileHeads are not flexible! Times have changed, accept that and create something of value.

When they focus only on coding and shipping the code – they’re breaking rule number three. They are not focused on creation of something usable. They’re focused on maintaining their position in the organization. Is as unusable as ten volumes of complex documentation.

Wrap up: If we will treat AgileHeads as we treat internet trolls (ignore!), Agile and User Experience Design can coexist together. In fact, I believe the combination of UX focused on users and Agile focused on collaboration and flexibility is a great foundation of effective Product Development.

Liz – thank you. Your post was needed.

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