Enthusiasm and Astroturfing in the Agile Landscape

Agile is so cool isn’t it? And our team is so much more productive since we’ve switched to Scrum — in fact we’ve decided to reorganize our entire lives around lean/kanban culture

It seems like you can’t browse anywhere without tripping over the gushing praise of various flavors of agile. And the proponents seem so sincere and convinced!

However, with rare exception, these are actually, essentially shills, in a practice known as astroturfing.

Astroturfing is a form of advocacy in support of a political, organizational, or corporate agenda, designed to give the appearance of a “grassroots” movement. The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event. The term is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.

What if you found out that all those rave reviews of some car were all made by salesmen or car dealerships?

Click on the names of the posters on these blogs, and see what you find. With rare exception, they will be Certified Scrum Masters. Check out their twitter feed to find out their 30% Discount on Training!

Yes, they are all out their, drumming up business. Some estimate there are up to 150k CSMs out there, all trying to make a buck.

Even more unnerving, the various Scrum “credentialing” organizations, encourage this behavior. To get to the higher money making levels, like CST, which can allow people to earn literally millions of dollars a year doing 2 day training workshops, they want you the aspirants to amongst other things, prove that they have spread the word in a grass roots way — eg, astroturfing.

What about magazines, tradeshows, infoq, and the like? What about all the positive comments there?

Same story — most of the “articles” they run are by people who have a vested interest in selling this stuff. They want to sell ads to agile tool vendors, etc, and they want to sell conference seats to anyone they can sell a seat to. They don’t care if the product is effective or not, as long as people are interested in it, and with the shills they generate interest.

Do your own research — try to find any real evidence of success with these methods. With 150k CSMs you’d think it would be easy, but there are countless stories of failure and very few of any success.

But that sure doesn’t stop the marketing! Next time you see some gushing praise just click the link — to find out it’s a salesman.

The people who aren’t salesman in it don’t have much praise to gush about — and that should be a wake up call.

About postagilist

Architect, Manager, Developer, Musician, Post-Agile thought leader
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4 Responses to Enthusiasm and Astroturfing in the Agile Landscape

  1. softwaretrading says:

    I’m not selling anything agile. I work on an agile team. My company sent me one a scrum course. I really enjoy my work, and i genuinely think the agile approach to transparency and respect for one another has a lot to do with it. Waterfall, because of the serial processing of tasks and much lower fidelity communication always tended to create unnecessary politics. Scrum in my opinion, if done well, helps get rid of them, but then again it could just be my team and my management.

    • PostAgilist says:

      That’s great maybe you can write it up as a “success story” on my blog there are very few entries in that category.

      I’ve never seen a waterfall project that had strict serial processing; either that was a joke or you were very unlucky on your last project…


  2. softwaretrading says:

    Sorry, geeky sense of humor. I’m referring to the waterfall tendency to manage the % completion of tasks within stages, which tend to be planned in a relatively serial order. In contrast, thin-slicing functionality and getting the whole team to completely deliver one piece of functionality with unit tests, documentation, so that it’s potentially sellable…kind of sounds like the team figuring out the best way to parallel process its own tasks.

    • PostAgilist says:

      It could be, but such parallelism within narrow sprints is difficult to achieve effectively relative to doing things in non vertical slices. I’ve seen much more micromanagent of time counting in agile than in waterfall. It sounds like you are working in a small team with daily changing requirements — as a hedge fund would — so it’s not surprising that it can work in such a fashion…but that isn’t representative of all or even most projects even though it’s sold as a universal panacea.


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