Phil Japikse Q&A, Part 2: "Big A" vs. "Little a" Agile Framework

When you start talking about agile development, chances are Phil Japikse’s name will come up. Among other things, he's been heavily involved in the agile community since 2005, and has some strong opinions about what it means and how it can apply.

As a continuation to Part 1 of our recent Q&A session with him, here are Phil's thoughts on another current development trend, "Big A" agile vs. "Little a" agile framework.

"What are some of the most transformative trends going on in the development world today?"

We’ve got to talk about agile. About five years ago, one of the Gartner analysts declared agile mainstream. Once that happened, there were all these companies that felt they missed it.

Then there was a huge proliferation of agile—“big A” agile—frameworks. And I’m not knocking the frameworks. But in development, you pick the right tool for the right job. A lot of my customers found the first person they could find to implement agile just because.

What's been transformational about this is there are a lot more people trying to figure this agile thing out and examining their development practices and all that’s great. But the negative side of that is lot of people are just slamming it in because they read a book, or they found an expert in it and they’re not actually looking at core values or principles. They’re just trying to do agile because their colleagues or competition is doing it.

"Is Agile for everyone, or are there some situations and development scenarios where it's less suitable?"

I’m going to be picky here. The way you wrote this question is you’ve got the “Big A” agile. I don’t think that’s for everyone. You really have to understand the frameworks and be able to iterate change.

“Little a” agile is for everyone. If we look at what agile really is, it’s transparency. It’s collaboration. It’s continuous improvement and feedback. You can’t tell me you don’t want to try and be better at what you do. It’s incremental improvement, retrospecting, and bringing people in to collaborate.

It's for everyone, and not just in software. I'm a member of the Knights of Columbus, and I’m in charge of the poker tent for church festivals. So I run the poker tent the day of, but everything leading up to that we run in an agile manner. There’s incremental improvement and lots of feedback. We just had a retrospective the last night of an event last week to determine how we can make it better.

So agile is for everyone, but when you say “Big A” agile is going to transform your company, then it’s not for everyone. I've been thrown out by several customers because I brought up the word agile. But when I talk about how we can help you get better at what you do, we can help you cut costs and we can improve quality. Are those things of interest? Then the answer is different.

"What new things are you working on and learning these days, and why?"

I'm always talking to the different “agilists” out there. Tim Korson recently spoke at my conference (Day of Agile in Cincinnati, OH). LeSS is a framework (large scale SCRUM), and he's one of very few LeSS-certified instructors in the world.

I don’t know everything. I’ve been doing it for a long time, but it’s a journey, not a destination. I'm very passionate about it, so I want to keep honing my craft.

Want even more Phil?  Follow him on Twitter (@skimedic) and read his blog by visiting

Posted by Lafe Low on 09/12/2016

Keep Up-to-Date with Visual Studio Live!

Email address*Country*