Post-Agile?

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“Most people doing Agile today are actually doing Waterfall with Agile terms. Agile is dead.”

There are a lot of people talking about “post-agile” now that the word Agile has been taken up by the masses, including those selling products and services with the word without ever doing what some might consider to be truly Agile.

What did you expect?

It’s not been so many years since the mailing lists were abuzz with people suggesting Agile to anyone who would listen, and many who would not. Why the shift from pushing Agile to walking away from it? Did you think people would “see the light” and be suddenly changed?

Let’s face it, working in an Agile fashion is hard. It requires paying attention to what you’re doing and the results of that. It requires thinking and making choices. It requires honoring the thoughts and feelings of those around you. None of this is easy stuff. It doesn’t just fall into place because you’ve decided to “do Agile.”

It doesn’t “just happen” even when you’ve been working in an Agile fashion for a decade. Every day is another day of practice. I still make mistakes. I expect that; I just strive to notice and correct them earlier.

I’m often helping large organizations, or parts of large organization, move to a more Agile process. The process of making that shift is more complicated than the process of Agile, itself. When you have dozens of people affected, each one reacts differently and in a different time scale. When you have hundreds, the same is still true. Large ships turn slowly. Large organizations even more so, as they are not “one thing” to be turned.

Often the successful transformations of large organizations do not look Agile to those who work in small ones. There are many aspects that may be compromised or suboptimal in comparison to what a small organization can achieve. Yet large organizations can learn to deliver working software more reliably and more frequently, or at least determine when they can’t, much sooner. And the working lives of those involved can be much more engaging and rewarding.

Those who are abandoning Agile because “the wrong people” have gotten involved and it hasn’t transformed the world of work into the place envisioned in your dreams, what did you expect? When has anything been a broad and unalloyed success?

Take another look at the successes, at the progress that has been made, and rejoice in that. Do not be discouraged that the struggle to succeed will never cease.

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Comments (11) to “Post-Agile?”

  1. Well-said. IMO it’s not even about “Agile”. If a company truly wants to improve its software quality, that takes a meaningful commitment, way more time than anyone expects, and usually, a huge cultural change, unless it’s a brand new company starting from scratch. People think the company I work for is “special”, but the owners realized that either they had to find a way to get the software working, or they would go out of business. I wonder if most companies need to feel that level of pain to make a real change?

    I wish everyone would switch their focus to “Let’s make our biggest problem a little bit better” instead of “Let’s be Agile”.

  2. I’ve been getting discouraged recently about what I’ve referred to as the rot within our community. Thanks for this post, you are exactly right. I’d also like to see the in-fighting within the different factions go away. For example, both Scrum and Kanban work well in different contexts. There are no silver bullets.

    Let’s focus on making things better together rather than fighting to do Agile the “right” way.

  3. This quote seems quite apt:

    Accomplish but don’t boast
    Accomplish without show
    Accomplish without arrogance
    Accomplish without grabbing
    Accomplish without forcing.
    When things flourish they decline

  4. Hi George,

    Some people think “Kanban” when they think post-agile.

    Your post really highlights what’s on everybody’s mind, that Agile is just a set of best practices and that technically it’s not a methodology.

    I would (again) love to republish your post on PM Hut where many project managers will benefit from it. Please email me or contact me through the contact us form on the PM Hut website in case you’re OK with this.

  5. George, well-stated. I too am concerned that the ‘community’ will continue to lose sight…as James commented:

    “Let’s focus on making things better together rather than fighting to do Agile the “right” way.”

    100%

  6. Agree. Changing over night won’t happen in larger organizations.

    So many things have to be considered: It’s not certain the whole organization can do the transformation at once, changing to functionality oriented teams takes time, many organizations have a culture of mindlessly moving people around between projects, and so on.

    A couple of points to succeed in the long run is to understand the reasons behind switching to agile (not doing it just because) and to prepare and educate people properly.

  7. […] via George Dinwiddie’s blog » Post-Agile?. […]

  8. The fact is, agile was always a rather thin attempt to focus mainly on the short term.

    The fact that it has been overrun by questionable people/companies is yet another issue.

    However, everything must adopt and grow, and not all good ideas really are good ideas.

    Post Agilism is moving beyond the limited view of Agile, taking what can be gained from it and moving on.

    I have a post about this:
    http://jordanbortz.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/post-agilism-moving-beyond-the-outdated-and-misdirected-aspects-of-agile/

    Jordan

  9. Hi, Jordan. Your concept of the nature of Agile is quite limited, in my opinion. And your description of what you do sounds very much pre-agile.

    • Use only the best people
    • Depend on specialists
    • Using documents to “keep people on the same page”
    • Starting with an architectural framework
    • Padding estimates for unknowns

    I don’t see much in your description that wasn’t common in the 1980s.

  10. Hi George

    Thanks for the comments. It sounds from the above, what you are quoting is from “my approach” page.

    “My approach” is not agile; therefore what you are quoting is not what my concept of what agile is.

    I am aware of what agile is, and my approach, as you noted is certainly different from agile, as, I am neither practice nor recommend agile approaches :)

    Yes, I think post-agile will involve going back to ways that were done in a positive way, that may have been born, as is the case with my approach, before the manifesto was born

    Jordan

  11. Also, as I’m sure you’re aware, the “quotes” from my approach you made were more paraphrasing than actual quotations.

    My approach is more nuanced than your paraphrasing, so I encourage people to read the original, but it is more or less correct, if slightly overstated. (your paraphrasing)

    Jordan

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