Agile is dead

3 min read

…long live agile?

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I was having some beers in the BCN Software Crafters after the first day, and, as usual, interesting topics arose. Here, take the first learning of this newsletter. Surround yourself with smart, passionate people, and listen to them. You might learn a thing or two. Or, at least, they’ll make you think.

So. My hypothesis. “Agile” (uppercased) has become a dreaded word for developers in the agile/XP/crafters communities.

The reasoning? Agile is now a business. It is not what it used to be. We (“we” as in “industry”) have moved from principles and mindsets to certifications, programs, training.

And to be clear. Fuck (most of) certifications, programs, and training.

Big companies use the label. But they are not driven by the principles, thus creating a dissonance between people who championed the whole thing and everyone else. And I empathize with them. Agile crossed the chasm long time ago. Efforts were made into attracting the early and late majority.

But, why? I mean, the sole purpose of the agile manifesto was to uncover better ways to… produce software. I feel the “Agile” label has abandoned developers.

It has become a makeup layer on top of dreaded, awful, archaic software management practices. It’s funny because the agile manifesto actually wanted to overcome these practices (no, it’s not funny).

You are a Project Manager? Earn x2 by switching to Product Owner on LinkedIn! Or Scrum Master, because why not?

And no one is to blame! I mean, yes, obviously. Big companies eating everything that is good for breakfast. But that’s the World we live in, right?

So what should we do? Should we strive for defending the label, come what may? Being a Don Quijote is exhausting, and our energy is finite. Yet, it makes sense to fight for something if it’s worth it.

The agile manifesto is… hard

I loved what Carlos said about his experience because it resonated with mine. He said he had to follow “agile methodologies” for five years before starting to understand what they meant.

The manifesto itself is easy to understand. Only four values and a bunch of principles. The ramifications of that assumptions are what makes the whole thing hard to master. The manifesto changes everything — and I mean everything- within a company. It requires trust, empathy, courage, and mastery. You will tackle relationships, processes, unchallenged assumptions. Put people first. Deliver good software often. Reflect on that delivery. Never settle.

My take is that big companies won’t stop calling themselves “Agile” because we are angry. They don’t give a fuck about movements. They are selling Agile to try to look young and cool and attract talent. And they are succeeding — it’s that their idea of success is not as ours’.

But not only big companies are to blame — There’s a lot of people who are making a great sum of money out of selling “Agile”. But that’s not Agile. That’s the fad they take advantage of.

The “Agile implementations” that we see nowadays have become the enemies of what we believe.

So, my open questions are the following:

Should we fight to get back the label, come what may? Or should we focus on the principles, and use whatever new fancy label represent us?

Food for thought

More on this topic from The Best™:

The Tragedy of Craftsmanship, by Uncle Bob.

Developers Should Abandon Agile, by Ron Jeffries.