Is the Agile Community still “uncovering better ways of developing software…” or just debating whether to implement Scrum or Kanban?

The first part of the Agile Manifesto states: “We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.”

Is the Agile Community still interested in innovating new, better ways of developing software, or just debating whether Scrum or Kanban is the best and most universally applicable?

It seems to me the community has veered in many ways from the original goals.

When I read the agile manifesto “We” means everyone. It doesn’t mean the select few original signatories.

And “uncovering” implies a current as well as future uncovering of new methodologies.

However what we have today, is a situation where nearly everyone has decided that either Lean/Kanban, or Scrum, is the end-all-be-all and which one should they get certified in?

This current morphing of the agile manifesto as translated into the real world might be:

“They uncovered better ways of developing consumer electronics (Scrum) and managing inventory (Kanban/Lean), and therefore we are slavishly adhering to these conventions for developing software”

This makes no sense to me. Scrum was born from designing consumer electronics, Lean/Kanban was born from managing parts inventory in a factory, NEITHER of which has anything to do with software development.

We’ve gone from a promise of continual innovation related to SOFTWARE development (The original agile manifesto) — and now what we have is a complacency that one of the aforementioned methodologies is all that is necessary, and it’s just time to be conventional but still call it agile. The only choice is whether to be conventional and complacent with Scrum, or conventional and complacent with Lean/Kanban.

Keep in mind that

1) Scrum and Kanban are based on 30 year old concepts from Japanese business

2) The Japanese economy has been paralyzed for nearly 20 years (the so called “lost decade” now spanning 2+ decades).

Software development has little to nothing to learn from manufacturing.

People interested in Manufacturing (Lean/Kanban/Scrum) would be better suited studying whatever techniques the new manufacturing leaders (China, Korea) are using. The number of Samsung and Vizio TV’s, as well as chinese computers, etc, greatly exceeds the Japanese output. Talking about Japan these days is like talking about the Beatles, but they do it every day at Lean/Agile conferences.

If all these Japanese management principles (Scrum/Lean/Kanban) are so great, why is it exactly that the Japanese are getting trounced in the marketplace? Yes, they still make cars, but they are all but dead in the consumer electronics space, which is where Scrum originated. Lean/Kanban? Sure it’s a successful way to manage INVENTORY, but managing INVENTORY has nothing to do with software development.

People interested in Software should keep innovating, in techniques related to Software development and innovation, not irrelevant disciplines like manufacturing.

Am I the only one seeing this, or am I just the only one not trying to cash in on convention?

It seems like where we are at with Agile is where we are at with Rock Music. Rock used to be innovative, progressive, leading edge.

Now it is mostly corporate complacent pablum.

Of course it took 50-60 years for Rock to become complacent, but less than 10 for the agile community. What happened?

Please feel free to share your thoughts on what we should do at this juncture.


About postagilist

Architect, Manager, Developer, Musician, Post-Agile thought leader
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9 Responses to Is the Agile Community still “uncovering better ways of developing software…” or just debating whether to implement Scrum or Kanban?

  1. Mike Pearce says:

    This is an interesting point of view and not one I wholly disagree with. I’ve read through quite a few of your posts now and you do make some interesting points. There are those out there, as you say, that slavishly adhere to either scrum/lean/kanban/whatever and either aren’t aware, or aren’t able to comprehend other ways of doing things, even ways that are borne from reflecting on current process and improving them, irrespective of the chosen framework.

    However, there are those out there that do work things out by starting with a framework (scrum, kanban, whatever) then modify it to be able to create better, faster value without compromising on integrity.

    Sometimes, it sounds like you tar everyone in the agile community with the same brush, have I read this right? Your opinions, while sometimes venomous, are refreshing and help me adjust the way I think in order to not be an ‘agile evangelist’ (at the cost of common sense), but simply someone who uses agile as a basis for high performance, but the question that remains for me, then, is; what do you propose? What kind of framework/value system do you use or favour when working as a developer? How do you deal with companies that are struggling with ‘agile’ adoption?

    • PostAgilist says:


      No, I’m not tarring everyone with the same brush, nor am I being venomous.

      Personally I use email a lot (verboten in Scrum), doing enough planning ahead not to need constant daily meetings, understanding the requirements first and coding second, not coding first and thinking second ala TDD/Scrum/XP etc…basically common sense but that seems rather rare these days so I guess it’s the new unique.

      Which methodology to use, or how, is almost never a concern on projects that I’m involved in.

      Generally we use “no specific” methodology, and things come out great.

      Why is that? Top developers, like myself for one thing. Top Architects, like myself, for another.

      People who are desperate for a methodology fix usually have much more severe problems that they need to solve (bad developers, bad software development infrastructure, bad management, etc).

      To me the agile movement is like saying which nail polish should you use when you have a hernia.

      As per how should people “methdologize” — to the exent that they do — I believe it is up to them to decide that.

      If they can’t make that decision or implement their own methodology, then they shouldn’t be in the software world to begin with.

      Scrum is a method that succeeds (or not) based on having a todo list, some post its, and daily meetings.

      As I said above, if people can’t invent their own methodology, however slightly more sophisticated than that it may be, they really should exit the business.


  2. PostAgilist says:

    I think there are a lot of truths in the second link, but I am more “Programming and DESIGN” than “just Programming”…


  3. Love this post PostAgilist. I’m going to add it to tomorrow’s podcast show. It certainly had me thinking.

  4. Agile Renee says:

    Wow. This too way longer than normal. We had one podcast cancel then a conference happened and then there were holidays ….. but I got this post in there (better late then never?).
    Thanks PostAgilist for your continually interesting posts.

    • PostAgilist says:

      Well thanks for discussing this on your podcast… I was glad to hear one of the folks say “they had to think about that…” That’s what this blog is all about.


  5. Like every good idea, “Agile” gets watered down and misunderstood. Not every doctor can cure every disease, and even fewer actually do research. While I hope a few people’s minds have been opened enough that they’ll pay attention to what they’re doing and learn a bit, only a small fraction will ever contribute anything valuable to the “community”. If there is a “community”. I hope that most people contribute to the people around them in real- and cyberspace.

    I had hoped for a revolution. Instead, what I got was a world where a lot of people are a little bit better off than they were. Maybe that’s really a revolution, now that I think about it …

    • PostAgilist says:

      Hi Ron

      Thanks for dropping by. I don’t want to rehash our disagreements from the past but here’s the timeline as I see it

      1) XP was introduced, with book sales and “immersions”. Many excuses were made as to why it didn’t work that have become (anti)patterns. Such as “but you didn’t do all the practices…” “you’re not really doing xp…” “it’s too early to say if it works”

      2) Those excuses, as well as your overall “literary style” were copied by the scrum crowd, but they added the certifications, and doubled down on the “you’re not really doing scrum excuse”

      3) 20 years later there is still no evidence that scrum works so now…

      4) The Lean/Kanban people are doing the same thing with Lean and Kanban.

      What would really help is for people like yourself to admit that the agile stuff was oversold, that the XP Versus waterfall etc was too divisive, and it set up the agile world for warring and profiteering camps.

      That would be step 1 in what could lead to at least the start of an agile reformation here.


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