Responses to The Agile Backlash

Here are some reactions to the Agile Backlash post:
Tim Beck weighs in:

In the end, I firmly believe (and I think Jonathan does too) that the “Agile or not” debate is moot. There is a post-agilism movement coming (or already here) and we are going to have to deal with it. The software world is changing (did it ever stop) and if you don’t adapt to the world you’ll get left behind.

As Tim knows, “post-agilism” is a descriptive term of a growing community I have observed over the past couple of years. I am not trying to found a movement, there is no manifesto, and I’m not selling a process. “Post-agilism” is a term I used to describe the growing group of practitioners who agree with the Agile Manifesto, but don’t consider themselves to be “Agile” anymore. I struggled with this for a while, and I find the term helpful for my own thinking. It was difficult to square the Agile movement on one hand, and this group of practitioners I kept meeting who just didn’t fit. Others have described a watershed moment when they read the term. “That describes me! I’m not alone!”

Jason Gorman is on the money:

I’m saying that I completely believe in iterative and incremental, feedback-driven delivery of working software. This is based not only on experience, but also on some simple maths that shows me that the evolutionary approach is nearly always better and never worse than single-step delivery (“waterfall”).

But I’m not saying that because it’s written in a book or on a web site. And that’s what makes me post-Agile, I guess.

A reader emailed me:

This is the most balanced Agile piece I remember you writing, the most balanced IT piece overall. The focus has moved from just Agile to software development, which is where I wish the industry focus would move.

Another reader emails:

All the religious hype really gets up my nose, and I just want to get on with the business of developing software the best way we know how, and thinking about all the ways we can do it better.”

Another reader says:

I’m not yet ready to abandon the term “Agile” to those who invoke it in name only. I’d rather shine the light of day on this practice. But whatever name you use, keep up the good fight.

This is exactly the kind of thing I like to see from Agilists.”I’m not ready to abandon the term. If you are, fine, but I’m going to work on improving things from within the community than from without.”

Chris McMahon expands on the skill component:

Skill of course is critically important. (The Economist had an article a couple of weeks ago pointing out that even while companies are outsourcing function to India and China, they are desperate for talent, and will hire talented employees anywhere in the world they find them.)

Other *human* attributes are also critically important.

Matt Heusser posts:

I see a lot of “Agile” process zealots. I don’t get it. One of the points of the manifesto is to focus on individuals and interactions over process and tools, and yet people keep selling methodologies and tools. I suppose that’s because it’s easy to sell. I intend to propose a session at the Agile Conference 2007 to discuss this.

Oddly enough, the term “post-agilism” came to my mind after talking with Matt over a year ago, after we both did keynotes at a conference. Matt was wondering whether the Agile movement was an example of a type of post-modernism. I thought about it for a couple of months, but there was this growing group of people I met that didn’t fit that seemed to be more like post-modernists than the Agilists I was observing.

I also felt conflicted. I liked the Agile Manifesto, and the values of XP, but I didn’t consider myself an Agilist anymore. I had been on teams that practiced evolutionary design and development before the “Agile” term was formed, and I just didn’t relate to the Agile movement anymore. I felt it had stopped innovating. I wasn’t alone. Across the pond, at approximately the same time I was thinking of these things, Jason Gorman was thinking the exact same thing. Jason expressed the post-modernism angle much better than I could. (Note: please work to prove us wrong.)

Matt has jumped ahead with this idea of Post Modern Software Development , and is talking about Perils and Pitfalls of Agile Development. Keep pushing the envelope Matt!

As Tim Beck says, there is an Agile backlash which is already taking place in some communities, or is on its way. Our choice is to either deal with it in a healthy way, or get swept aside when the charlatans jump on the next fad tool or process they can sell to the unwitting.

Another reader commented:

Agile is yesterday’s silver bullet.

This is an interesting point, with potentially serious implications. If “Agile” is perceived by some to be a silver bullet, we are going to have to fight to keep the good things the Agile movement popularized from getting thrown out with the bad.

One reader said to me: “This is great! There is nothing better to improve the Agile movement or help create something new than to speak from the heart and buck the groupthink and hype with thoughtful introspection and constructive criticism. Furthermore, dealing with a backlash in a healthy way is extremely important.” This reader then told me a story of a company he had dealt with that used an Agile consultancy for a project. The project failed, so management banned anything that could be associated with “Agile”. What that meant was that there was a ban imposed on anything that used an iterative life cycle, and incremental, evolutionary design and delivery. This is exactly the kind of reaction we don’t want to see. Instead of building on what worked and improving, they have taken software development back into the dark ages in that company. My reader went on: “This isn’t the only company I’ve seen do this – throwing out “Agile” and returning to big up-front design. I wish more people understood that there is a better way, and I think what you are doing sheds light on that. This can help us improve.”

My hope with the Agile Backlash post is to let people know there is a better way.