Agile isn’t dead — It’s just spread (beat poet style)

I recently found yet another article (“Agile software development is dead. Deal with it.“) that proclaims the death of Agile. It seems like every month or two a new article is published proclaiming that Agile is dead. So far, every one of these articles has made this argument using some kind of a straw man.

The article paints a pretty bleak picture of the author’s experience with Agile and then tears that straw man down explaining why Agile is now dead. Not in my experience. Agile isn’t dead, but it has spread. It’s spread out from the software development industry into other industries. It’s spread out from the IT department into all of the rest of the departments, and it has spread up from the team level to the C-suite.

Agile is not a panacea, but it helps when we’re facing problems that are a mix of unpredictable parts and predictable but complicated parts. So no, Agile isn’t dead, just like Lean isn’t dead and even Taylorism isn’t dead.

All management trends settle into the context where they’re useful, and Agile is just now starting to test the boundaries of where it’s actually useful. So Agile isn’t dead, it has spread. To extend the Gerry Weinberg law of raspberry jam a little bit, when we spread the jam too thin on some bread that’s too dry, the jam can get mixed with the breadcrumbs, and it’s hard to tell what’s Agile and what’s the original bread.

Maybe those proclaiming Agile to be dead have experienced Agile that’s spread too thin. It’s been so mixed in with the breadcrumbs of what was there before it, that it doesn’t taste very good anymore. Maybe they just need to experience some pure raspberry jam in all of its glory, and those proclamations of its death might seem a little bit ill warranted, maybe a little bit premature.

So Agile isn’t dead, it’s just spread. That’s my take on the situation.

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  1. Thanks Peter. I agree when Agile is spread too thin, we see issues. I’m sure it varies by organization, but have you noticed in failed efforts: Do some of the principles end up sticking anyway? Do companies end up circling back and trying again?

    • For sure – parts of it stick, and those are usually the parts that help the organization do what it wanted to do before the “Agile adoption”, whatever that means in an organization. There are lots of examples of companies circling back multiple times to try again, usually coinciding with a change in executives.

Peter Green

Peter Green led a grass roots Agile transformation at Adobe from 2005 to 2015, starting with his own team, Adobe Audition. His influence includes the teams behind such software flagships as Photoshop, Acrobat, Flash, Dreamweaver and Premiere Pro, as well as dozens of internal IT and platform technology teams and groups like marketing and globalization. His work was a major factor enabling Adobe product teams to make critical business transition from perpetual desktop products to the subscription-based service, Creative Cloud. His hands-on Scrum and Agile training and coaching at all levels of the organization including executives, helped lay the groundwork to shift teams from two-year product cycles to frequent delivery of high-quality software and services. He is a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST), instructional designer, coach, facilitator, and a popular speaker at Tech, Agile, and Scrum conferences.

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