@David: Thanks for your thoughts. Always great to hear from a respected voice in the IxD/UX community. I should preface my response with the comment that as a user experience designer I too have led waterfall projects for many years, read the references you give, and agree that the “˜real design methods’ you describe bring notable benefits to design work.
My passion is not for Agile development — it is for making technology better via design. In a world of limitless time, budget and patience, waterfall is undoubtedly the best way to achieve this. Sadly we aren’t afforded this luxury now, nor were we ever. Business owners are already insisting on seeing outputs for their precious investment sooner rather than later. Simply put, few are brave enough to choose months of ethnographic research over putting an incomplete beta up and seeing what happens. Rightly or wrongly, we need to deal with this scenario.
Agile is not a magic bullet for a failing economy. It is merely a tool, as I mention in the article, and for many projects it’s entirely inappropriate. I would include here the domain of commercial product design, which you touch upon with your iPod example. Agile is concerned with software, and is incompatible with the design of a consumer hardware product. I would, however, contend that it is highly relevant to the software side of the iPod experience. In fact, what Apple are doing now — putting new features live, fixing them, iterating based on user feedback and new technical and design innovations — seems very much in an Agile spirit.
I couldn’t agree more that good design needs thought, vision and innovation. Where we differ is that I believe these are all philosophically compatible with Agile. At present, there are weaknesses in the way we try to integrate them, caused in part by dogmatic focus — from both sides — on process rather than pragmatism. This article was designed (and I use that word advisedly) to kick-start debate on how these weaknesses can be overcome. I’m glad it seems to have had that effect, although our viewpoints diverge. (I absolutely second Jeffrey’s suggestion, by the way).
As a final thought, I mention in the article that designers face a choice: stand our ground, or try more flexible approaches. Both options have risks. With one, we risk accusations of irrelevancy or martyrdom, meaning we simply get ignored. With the other, we risk losing the ways of working we’ve previously held dear. I choose the latter, since it puts my destiny in my own hands.