Why we shouldn’t be Agile

When the agile manifesto was published it was groundbreaking. It was the sign of an young, rebellious industry. But now the agile movement is 13 years old and well integrated into almost every software company that takes itself seriously.

So why are people declaring Agile to be dead?

agile is not Agile.

The agile manifesto revolves around 4 simple values that have been passed on and pushed into almost every type of software company or enterprise.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 09.25.05

Katherine Kirk describes how the goal of the agile is to create a rotational hierarchy, where the most knowledgeable person for a specific task becomes the leader. If a new task arises the most proficient for this type of problem takes the role as leader. However this rotational hierarchy inevitably ends up butting heads with the static structures of management, labelled universally and across the board as psychopaths by Kirk (who displays a lack of the empathy and compassion that she later works so hard in advocating).

She, if any, works hard on establishing the “us” and “them”, where the developers are labelled as the heroical introverts cruelly held down by the management with their inevitable psychopathic tendencies.

However, as became evident in the stories told by Corry and Richter people, not just management, inevitable converge into processes, whether they are deemed traditionally agile or not.

Again and again it is postulated that agility is NOT a fixed set of methods it’s a state of mind. It’s a willingness to constantly be open to and explore the methods and work patterns that work optimally for this specific development team and for this specific task. However, the agile movement has become Agile – a buzzword that is thrown around and not an actual mindset.

Focus on the process

What becomes clear from talk after talk about how to employ the agile mindset is that most people respond to, and end up in, fixed structures and processes. Processes were they lean on the agile tools, like scrum which at its worst is useless, but at least not harmful.

I think the software industry needs to be brave and realize; maybe we shouldn’t be agile. Rather we should accept that people need a certain element of predictability and stability. An element that should be found in processes.

We should focus on the construction of processes rather than the abolishment. However that requires a new mindset; that maybe not all static processes are evil, maybe a certain sense of stability can actually lead to more exploration and risk-tasking. Some people are not interested in constantly re-evaluating and redefining the minutiae of processes every month, but would rather focus on work. A stable process would give them the flexibility to do that.

The agile manifesto has revolutionised the software industry, but it has turned into the rigidity is was trying to deflect. We have blindly followed the values of other’s when the point was to create our own. It’s time to do something new. It’s time to proudly declare; I am not Agile!

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Profile photo of Mathilde Hoeg

Mathilde Hoeg

freelance
Mathilde er uddannet i IT-produktudvikling og arbejder som freelance UX-konsulent og designer. Selvom hun har en teknisk baggrund er det altid mennesket der kommer først i design. Til det er hun stor fan af tuscher og papir til at kommunikere og genere nye, fede design ideer.

7 kommentarer for “Why we shouldn’t be Agile

  1. Profile photo of agilerasmus
    1. oktober 2014 at 19:46

    Noooooh…. Please don’t confuse agile with the methodoligies. I also noticed how KKirk pushed roles and relationship into agile.

    Agile is a mindset or a set of values. It does not tell you to take on specific roles.

    Scrum is a set of roles, artefacts and ceremonies all designed to adhere to the agile manifesto. However, not all implementations can be considered agile.

    In fact, some of the most agile teams I know are not using Scrum and certainly not Kanban. In their words: they use comon sense.

  2. Profile photo of Mathilde Hoeg
    1. oktober 2014 at 20:01

    Exactly; my point is that agile as a mindset just doesn’t work for most people. Some people prefer to work within more fixed structures and we should focus on creating good structures that don’t require constant re-evaluation. Agile, as is today, is mainly a buzzword that at best does nothing and at worst requires constant redefining of methods and processes.

    So many industries flourish just fine without agile – maybe the tech industry could too?

  3. Profile photo of agilerasmus
    1. oktober 2014 at 20:17

    Still a ‘noooooohhhh’ from my chair.

    People can be agile even if they use wafterfall or similar structured processes.

    The key is to bring people together to build software – togehter.

    Scrum, at its purest, also enforces hiearchy. Not in the scrum team but f.i. towards the Product Owner.

    • Profile photo of Helena Marie Meyer
      2. oktober 2014 at 13:33

      I disagree that people can be agile if they use the ‘waterfall’ model. The mantras have been that you cannot do agile, if the whole company/organisation isn’t agile
      (e.g. if the main process is waterfall and the mindset of the bosses etc. is waterfall).

      You can of course try to apply agile when using waterfall as the main strategy for development, but it is very difficult and I’m not sure you will succeed – even after many years. I have seen, tried and experienced this for 7-8 years (in a company that was using waterfall).

      • Profile photo of agilerasmus
        3. oktober 2014 at 7:10

        Sooo…. having this mindset:

        Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
        Working software over comprehensive documentation
        Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
        Responding to change over following a plan

        … is impossible when doing something else than Scrum, Kanban, etc.? I concur.

        It is true that Scrum, Kanban, etc. have been invented to “implement” the mindset, but the mindset certainly also applies to other frameworks.

        • Profile photo of Mathilde Hoeg
          3. oktober 2014 at 11:34

          I don’t think the question is whether certain frameworks can or cannot be agile. I rather believe the question should be, given where we are today, In the IT-industry, is the agile mindset still the most beneficial; for companies in general, but certainly also for the people that work there!

  4. 16. oktober 2014 at 21:42

    The most important ingrediens in Agile is Trust.

    Working together, Worning as a group, Relying on your departement Working together, yes the hole company and your partners all Working for a shared goal ….. That’s wild. C-level is often promised that when going from waterfall or other structured command and control frameworks to do Agile you get the above Trust!

    Trust is not something management can force apon people. You have to be trustworthy or be Agile not just do Agile. Agile is a culture change not just some principles and practices.

    Earn your trust by building it from the bottom with small actions like ….We Want to learn fast so lets fail fast! Now once we fail embrace this and make sure everybody feels ok or better about by failing. …. Okay we may have said that we care about people then we must show it and CARE about the employees. We might tell people that there opinion is important so lets listen to it and deligate responsibility to the team rather Work as usual in a command and control maner…

    But take baby steps and trust will lead the way to being Agile -Trust me on this 🙂

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