Everywhere you go it seems, people are being more and more critical of Agile and Scrum. What happened? Where did it go wrong? Isn’t Agile all Fuzzy Bunnies and Goodness?
Here’s my take on where the Agile Movement went astray
- Creating a “movement” to begin with
Creating a “movement” to begin with was a mistake; good technical ideas don’t need “movements” to support them.A movement implies that it is separatist in nature, dividing the world into those that are part of the movement and those that are not.
Movements use emotion and propaganda techniques to sway people to their side.
Creating a “separatist” movement makes it hard or impossible to work with people not part of the movement — of course the Agilists think all these people should be fired.
This is not the way to work with stakeholders.
- Creating a Manifesto to begin with Was also a bad idea. A manifesto implies some radical notions, upon which to base a separatist movement, with communist overtones.Most of the agile manifesto is unrelated to most projects
- Stolen/Appropriated Ideas
Most of Agile/Scrum is either based on iterative, incremental development, which predated the Agile movement, or based on outdated japanese manufacturing techniques, which also predated the Agile movement.They take these techniques, and wrap them in new rituals, and claim it as there own.
There are plenty of (more effective) ways of doing iterative and incremental development, but the Agilists don’t want you to know that
- Obvious Profiteering from an Early date
No sooner was the ink dry on the manifesto, that a raft of books, immersions, seminars, and certification mills sprang up.This left a bad taste in the mouths of many, both inside and outside the “movement”.
If something looks like a profiteering game, it probably is
- Infallibility/Personality Cult
Most of Agile canon (especially Scrum canon) is built around the notion that it is infallible.If it didn’t work for you, you did it wrong.
You have to do it the way the founders say to do it, or you’re not doing it right.
However these founders are mere mortals, the techniques are indeed fallible, and the failure of the “movement” to deal rationally in these areas leads more and more people to realize, that the Agile movement doesn’t work.
Even wikipedia feels that Agile is similar to cults.
Another criticism is that Agile’s drive to impose itself into business systems is cultish in its nature. Faith-based similarities include:
- Agile claims absolute universality, of being applicable to all levels of business, and useful to all members in any given organization.
- Agile claims infallibility (that its technique is absolutely correct as-is, and not to be changed or questioned).
- Agile requires meetings that involve ritual activity (“planning poker”, for example).
- Agile requires system-specific jargon for comprehension (Kanban, story points, scrum, epic, etc.), terms which are not readily understood by the layman or un-initiated.
- Agile attempts to create an ideological “monopoly of method”, excluding alternatives, competitive models, and any mixture or dilution of its core principles.
- Agile seeks to become closely allied with the “heads of state” (business leaders, in this case) to gain favor, authority, and reinforcement of its claims.
- Agile employs professional, full-time clergy (i.e. “Scrum Masters”) who alone possess the appropriate credentials of education and formal ordination (e.g. Agile certifications).
- Agile attempts to gain new members through viral reproduction and the socialization of the un-initiated into the ranks.
- Agile tries to minimize diversity of opinion by accepting different views within the system only rather than through the formation of new methodologies or alternatives.
It’s time to get back to the fundamentals of what works — iterative and incremental, and get rid of all the rituals, propaganda, and fluff that plagues agile.
Welcome to the post-agile world!