The death of agile

First go and read this great post by Bill Caputo. Bill’s site doesn’t seem to allow comments right now so I’ll put my response here instead.

I think part of the problem is that the agile ‘movement’ is so top-heavy with consultants. For many of these consultancies its very hard to sell a story like agile, which isn’t for a specific technology, when it’s packaged as a technical solution. They have to make it a business process problem to get through the door at a high enough dollar rate, or (for bigger consulting firms) to get enough bums on seats to make it worth the effort.

Think of other cross company technology efforts like standards bodies. Are all of these racked to the gills with consultants? No, they have a bunch of CTOs, senior developers, or whatever who are having to live with this stuff every day in a consistent environment. They do have consultants too, but not drowning out everyone else.

I know that the agile movement started with a bunch of really smart people, most of which were consultants, and some of its current leads (tip of the hat to some of my previous colleagues still at ThoughtWorks) are brilliant and continue to add valuable insight to our industry.

However for agile to get to anywhere beyond where it’s become (mostly a big mix of fluffy ideas that are easily billable but which don’t really solve anything without the necessary discipline which most companies are incapable of) it needs a much better diversity of background of leaders. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening – it’s just too big. Take the Agile 20xx conferences – they’re now basically 3 things:

  • 101-level training for newbies
  • an expo for largely pseudo-agile consulting firms and mediocre tools
  • a small amount of people who’ve known each other for ages catching up and complaining about the state of agile.

So I think you’re right, Bill, agile is dead. It served a good purpose, and did a pretty good job of giving our industry the kick up the behind it needed, but it is now pining for the fjords.

To end optimistically though, there’s still a lot of great stuff going on in our industry, its just these days I’m much more interested in technically based conferences and communities, and having conversations on the side of these around process. Its from these technical communities I’ve learned about things like Kanban, for example. And its a blessed relief not to have to justify whether the team I’m on ‘is agile or not’.