The Incredible Logic of Agile

Webster defines incredible as: too extraordinary and improbable to be believed.

Most of the incredible successes of agile, are in fact, incredible. I’ll be blogging about how some of these successes were actually colossal failures.

But what is equally incredible are the claims, and so called logic, that props up the deceptions that are the foundation of agile.

To be agile is to be free from the constraints of logic, and if you don’t believe me:

How often do you see…

  1. Using opinions/statements as fact: “Agile means to do xyz”  — It’s merely the opinion of the speaker, but it’s stated as a fact
  2. “Hyperproductive Scrum Teams” — while defining hyperproductivity in terms that are extremely suspect, such as using worst case as baseline, and using story points instead of real time units
  3. Calling Failures Successes– The C3 project that XP was initially used on was 6 years late and 50% complete. If it had been completed it would have been a dozen years late. That’s a success?  Scrum was used at Easel, a bit player in the Smalltalk world before Scrum and just as much a bit player afterwards. Delighted customers?  If there were any, they didn’t move the needle. Yahoo and Myspace were big Scrum users, even “hyperperforming” according to some reports. Hyperforming at lawndarting?
  4. “Do the simplest thing first” — Um, wouldn’t that be a prototype? But prototyping is forbidden in agile! Everything has to be “potentially shippable” (note: a mere statement of opinion by someone that has since been enshrined as fact) even given…
  5. “TDD” — if 90% of a system is never used, why write unit tests for it? If the situation is changing so often you don’t know what the customer wants, why write unit tests for it? Maybe after you decide what you want and the system stabilizes is a good time to write tests eh?

I could go on and on but please…. share your stories of the Incredible Logic of Agile!


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Get your Agile Laundry

Recently an agile blogger had tweeted that the most mundane tasks can seem cool, if you preface it with the word agile. Eg, “Agile Laundry”, “Agile Chores”, etc…

I had responded with, well, maybe you’ll finally realize that agile has always been about buzzwords and scamming?

Anyway this morning I was reminded of that Don Henly song, “Dirty Laundry”, and so, without further ado and with apologies to Don Henly I bring you — Agile Laundry!

Continue reading

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The Difference between “Agile” and “Lean”

The difference between agile and lean is simple to understand, but most people feel they are somehow equivalent.

They are not.

Lean — is designed to reduce waste and improve operational efficiency, especially related to repetitive tasks as often in seen in manufacturing.

Agile — is designed to execute tasks over a short time frame, with frequent customer involvement, and to be able to make changes quickly.

As you can see they have nothing to do with each other per se — one doesn’t need to be innovating new product to be lean, and one doesn’t have to be operationally efficient to be agile.

So why the confusion? One reason is that many people don’t understand the difference.

The larger reasons for the confusion is the vendors see both “Lean” and “Agile” as hot buttons and so they all say their method does both. “Scrum is Lean” shrieks Jeff Sutherland. “Lean is Agile” shriek the kanban vendors.

They themselves dilute the meaning of their own value propositions such as they exist.

They use a logical fallacy — that if A is “good” and B is “good” then A and B are equal and interchangable!

They are not — apples and oranges are still different, even if they both are useful.

Finally, it’s worth noting, that companies that revolve around operational efficiency (pumping out cheaper clones of competitors products) don’t last very long in the marketplace.

What works in manufacturing may not be appropriate for software development.

“Lean Startup” may in fact try to combine elements of both, but that doesn’t make Agile inherently Lean nor vice versa.

I question the validity of the “Minimally Viable Product” in any case — they are of the opinion that if you get there first you will own the marketplace.

Lots of people got there before youtube, lots of people got there before google and lots of people got there before facebook (myspace anyone?).

People need to understand and choose what to optimize for in their unique context, not just grab off the shelf buzzwords that other people fancy.

It would seem that marketplace is voting for the superior product, not the one that got there the cheapest (lean) or quickest (agile).


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The con job that is Shu-Ha-Ri

On another blog I posted the following:

That’s true. Ha is to question the norm. After you have gone through the training and expense of the Shu stage.

When you get to Ri they don’t make any money off of anyone, whether it’s’ aikido or scrum.

So, the thing is, can one bypass the “Shu” stage of endeavours that are non worthwhile, without spending any time or money?

To me, the answer is yes.

To Agile, Inc, the answer is heck no, right?

I’m not buying it — the notion that one cannot question an endeavor until one has spent shu amount of time and money on it. People could come up with 20 methodologies and force everyone through the shu stage before they are even allowed to question it.

Not only is the patrician, and outdated, it’s beyond the pale when it comes to telling the customer they are too ignorant to question anything until they have bought shu cars etc.

As you can see I’m not a big fan of the Shu-Ha-Ri concept. Not only is it fortune cookie level eastern thinking, it can fundamentally translated as: “Grandfather knows best. Grandfather is Ri. After you have kids and they are in college, you can be considered to be in the Ha stage, and after you are a grandparent you can be Ri. In the meantime, don’t question anything”.

Gussying it up in new age clothes doesn’t change it.

But it is a little more sinister than that — since you can’t question anything until you reach Ha stage, and you have to expend money  and time to go through the Shu stage, it’s a convenient cover story to sell you product, even product you question and don’t believe in, unquestioningly.

I’m sorry, noone should be forced to accept anything based on the fact that they are a “beginner” in a methodology someone just created.

They could be quite advanced in general and can see through things.

Even Einstein was quite fond of “gedanken” (thought) experiments versus real world experiments.

Sure, it’s nice to have the real world experience, in anything and everything, but it’s nice to be able to think through things and avoid suboptimal paths.

Shu-Ha-Ri is a concept, that, in the software world, needs to be lain to rest for good.

If people want to apprentice themselves to some master on their own time, that’s fine, or they can apprentice themselves to cobbler or luthier.

As a business technique, it’s sole purpose is to suppress dissent and gather revenues, pushing as many of the sheep through the shu stage as their bank accounts can stand.

If you can’t compare two different concepts without trying them both, then what they are trying to do is get you to spend the money to try both. That’s all there is to it.


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Where the Agile/Scrum Community got it wrong, and why the backlash continues to grow

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.


They catalog:

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!


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Death by Agile Fever

In an enlightening and entertaining post, Alex Bell takes to task the Zeal that blinds many to the obvious shortcomings of Agile.

Bell categorizes the following Agile fevers:

  • Lemming Fever
  • Easy Button Fever
  • One Size Fits All Fever
  • Elbow Grease Fever
  • Hallelujah Fever
  • Parrot Fever
  • Cook the Books Fever

As well as several others.

He also coins the term “Fragilista” to denote an Agilista who is thin skinned and lacks the strength to control his or her emotions in response to a perceived attack on Agile.

Many of the ideas he brings up are strongly related to my post here.

Ultimately, Bell feels that these Fevers are caused by the arrogance, ignorance, and insular narcissistic attitudes of many in the Agile community.

He claims: “The antidote for the many forms of Agile Fever is education. Unfortunately, the infectees who are most desperately in need of such education are often unaware of what they don’t know about Agile, are unreceptive to learning about what they don’t know, or believe that those trying to educate them are simply village idiots who have not yet seen the brightly burning Agile light.”

What’s your take?

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Moved content to new site

I have moved a lot of my content related to agile to it’s own site — this one —

Most of the content has been preserved through the move but some things like ratings and tweets have not…

Feel free to browse around and make comments! If there are broken links please leave a comment on this page and I will attempt to fix as I have time available


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