Agility - Coming of Age

Jutta Eckstein gave one of the invited talks at XP2005, reflecting on the change in her consulting experiences as Agile software development reaches out across the chasm to the early majority. She said that she is no longer coming in midway through "projects in crisis" (for whom an Agile approach is "a last hope") but is instead being invited in to the earliest stages of projects that have enthusiastically chosen to start with an Agile software development process. (She noted that the official German government methodology has changed to incorporate some Agile ideas, such as mandatory continuous customer involvement throughout the life of a project.) Jutta described some of the challenges of being a consultant involved in these different kinds of projects (e.g. how much experience / research did the customer have when deciding to use Agile? what are the Agile solutions appropriate to very large distributed teams, or those creating hardware as well as software?) and she stated that overcoming these is preferable to the ill health she suffered through her involvement with past unhealthy and suffering projects.
I can relate to that myself: I've seen good Agile consultants burn out on "rescue missions" that provided props for an organisational system whose actions created the need for a rescue in the first place. And Jutta addressed this topic of the organisational system directly, asking: is it possible to run a sustainable Agile project within an organisation whose values, expressed in words and deeds, are not aligned with the Agile manifesto? And I agree with her: using Agile is about more than applying a set of practices - the actual practices in use can (and should?) differ from one Agile project to another - it is about working within a value system.
Jutta finished with two provocative comments. Firstly she said that Agile isn't "trendy" anymore, so if you're looking for the cutting edge and the next big thing then now is the time to move on and find it. Then she finished by saying that any team not holding retrospectives isn't doing XP (yay! more retrospectives!! spontaneous applause from Diana Larsen!!!). All in all it was a stimulating talk, and it prompted a lot of conversation in the bar afterwards...