Stuff The Internet Says About Agile #1


The word “agile” has been subverted to the point where it is effectively meaningless, and what passes for an agile community seems to be largely an arena for consultants and vendors to hawk services and products.


Once the Manifesto became popular, the word agile became a magnet for anyone with points to espouse, hours to bill, or products to sell. It became a marketing term, coopted to improve sales in the same way that words such as eco and natural are. A word that is abused in this way becomes useless—it stops having meaning as it transitions into a brand.


I am proud to be one of the 17 founders/authors of the The Agile Manifesto back in 2001. I think it provided a jolt of energy, hope of a better way of doing things, of creating software and making the world work better. It was a pivotal turning point.

But in the 14 years since then, we‘ve lost our way. The word “agile” has become sloganized; meaningless at best, jingoist at worst. We have large swaths of people doing “flaccid agile,” a half-hearted attempt at following a few select software development practices, poorly. We have scads of vocal agile zealots—as per the definition that a zealot is one who redoubles their effort after they’ve forgotten their aim.

And worst of all, agile methods themselves have not been agile. Now there‘s an irony for you.

How did we get into this mess?


It’s all too common these days to see arguments on Twitter or mailing lists with these rules-bound zealots arguing that ”you’re not agile” because you aren’t following the rules to their satisfaction.

What happened to the idea of inspect and adapt? What happened to the idea of introducing new practices, of evolving our practices to suit the challenges at hand?


Scrum doesn’t talk about engineering. It is a methodology for software development, but it doesn’t talk about coding practices. At all. That is deeply troubling.


Under Agile, technical debt piles up and is not addressed because the business people calling the shots will not see a problem until it’s far too late or, at least, too expensive to fix it. Moreover, individual engineers are rewarded or punished solely based on the optics of the current two-week “sprint”, meaning that no one looks out five “sprints” ahead. Agile is just one mindless, near-sighted “sprint” after another: no progress, no improvement, just ticket after ticket after ticket.


There’s a variety of Agile, called Scrum, that I’ve seen actually kill a company. By “kill”, I don’t mean “the culture wasn’t as good afterward”. Rather, I mean that its stock dropped by almost 90 percent in less than two years.


There are many murky things about story points, but somehow the scrum masters and coaches will not abandon it. First of all, what are story points? Are they measures of time it takes to complete a story? If yes, then why are they not in terms of time? Are they measures of complexity? If yes, why are we not talking of the complexity of stories, and how we can remove them, instead of how we can achieve as many points as possible? That is, shouldn’t we be talking about doing as few points as possible?


The daily standup is in my opinion a manifestation of a significant but unspoken component of Scrum: Control.


OP: You don’t need a budget.

And this is why Agile don’t work in most cases.

One needs to know how much it will cost before making a decision to start the project. There is no point of starting a project if one does not know if one can afford to finish it.

Replacing proper financial planning with a snake oil sales salesmen (sorry – Agile consultant) is not a sound business policy.


First come the innovators, who see opportunities and create genuine value. Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done. Sometimes they improve on the original idea; often they tarnish it. Last come the idiots, whose avarice undermines the innovations they are trying to exploit.


I was once told by an Agile Trainer (LOL) that the correct way to phrase the requirement “we need advertising placeholders on the site, and some way to manage which ads appear where” was “As a User, I wish to be marketed to.” Needless to say his company lost a $m project on the back of such BS.


Who said Agile is dead? The founders of Agile and its practitioners said it, not me.

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