I’m not a huge fan of the “agile doom and gloom/naysayer” contingent, but this article makes some great points. Curious to hear what others think.
I do like how the article ends. It’s hard to say much about the article because the referencing is light. I don’t have access to the CHAOS reports, so that’s a tough place to be in terms of weighing what’s written. Also, I think the writer assumes a certain level of reflection and response that’s faster than most leaders are capable of unless under stress (think command and control) for budget control. Also, most execs are watching Gartner.
I’ve been thinking lately that somehow the teeny percentage of ‘enterprise agile process bullshit’ has somehow become the norm. Everything we see is related to banks/telcos/insurance/big consulting firms (AKA: stable industries that are unlikely to go away and don’t really need to change…) so it’s understandable that with so much constant attention, ‘agile is dead/broken’ thinking is bound to happen. That’s what happens when movements enter Bureaucratization and eventually Decline (Blumer, Social Movement Theory).
I don’t understand why so many agile coaches focus on trying to overcome the evils that big companies have done to agile…put your energy where it matters, or better yet, start your own company and see how hard it is versus telling everyone how wrong and stupid they are for ‘not doing agile right’.
I predict another article will emerge in 6 years: 2026: The Year Business Agility Gets Found Out.
You hit the nail on the head. If there’s no burning desire to change, you’re going through the motions to “keep up with the joneses” and following the newest management fad. I posit that any large scale enterprise doesn’t have the burning desire, or need, and this is why you have a plethora of angry (and honestly unrealistic) agile practitioners bemoaning the commodification of process/tools. But what do I know? I’m just some fat guy in south Jersey listening to death metal
That is because when people are looking at jobs, or where to consult… those are the companies that have the size, budget, and recruitment arm to dominate the conversation. I’ve worked in small strong shops in Philly, but they all struggle to get the word out when hiring and scream louder than the recruitment arms of the big glass tower or sprawling campus companies.
cripes, one of the banks here now has a process improvement team, agile coe, business agility coe, enterprise business agility…blah blah blah…and there are 5 levels of hierarchy in the COE. I quit consulting 4 years ago, but hey, when you can still charge $3,000 day to do meaningless work in a bank…more power to you!
I read this article very closely to see if there is some truth to what the author writes.
I came away thinking that perhaps one of the best ways these days to get attention - is to speak against Agile. So it seems like Agile has become so successful that it has become the de-facto ‘establishment’. Now upstarts have to start rebelling against it and throwing stones against it - to establish their own identities. Not bad considering that Agile has had over a 20+ year run - and still going strong - when the average lifespan of a company in S&P 500 is just about 18 years.
At the beginning of the paper - the author makes a lot of assertions without backing them up with data - or of any credible research publication to back up his assertions.
In fact I do not think that the author has even read his own references properly. For e.g. - Chis Porter who is referenced here for “An Agile Agenda” - says in that document - that Agile is successful - but says that it faces the next set of challenges - with regard to being applied to Scaling and with distributed teams, etc.
Also the author seems to think that all Agile successes are anecdotal. He has probably never encounter data based study of Agile projects from the likes of Micheal Mah, etc.
The author also says that “The Agile movement has served its purpose…” - which implies that Agile has basically been successful. Thus he contradicts his own thesis that Agile is a failure and will be “found out”.
The author also takes a the very Standish CHAOS report - which the head of Standish group presented at an Agile Conference touting the success of Agile and then conveniently mis-represents or mis-interprets its results to back his thesis. The author also himself acknowledges that the same Standish report “…shows much higher rate of success in Agile than in waterfall projects…”;. Such serious dissonance or duplicity here.
Now come the real interesting part: The author asserts that “……the choice of methodology is not the driver of results or that successful teams had already figured things out before the Agile Manifesto. This leads to the conclusion that agility and quality are products of the team, not of the process. The same teams that have had success with Agile would probably have had success if constrained to waterfall processes……”
Now, I am sure that many of you have heard manifesto signatory Alistair Cockburn say this very thing in many a forums. The point of the manifesto was to find out the secret sauce - or the principles - of such successful teams - and proliferate them among the general teams. And that is precisely what the Agile movement is all about - a point that seems to be largely lost on the author.
Further the author contradicts himself and says that - “Agile will never officially die…. as Agile changes to become something else entirely, something where technical quality, developer talent, and understanding of complexity become paramount to success.” If we go with this statement of his - then Agile has actually succeeded - because it has confronted its own limitation and has discovered ways to transcend it - thus contradicting the author’s very thesis.
The author also alludes to the Agile manifesto as : “……… a set of fluid principles in a manifesto that no one really seems able to make concrete.” - without understanding that the fluidity is its very essence of Agility - and it is contrary to a concrete set of ideas or methodology that the author seems to be pining for.
The author also writes: “Only the people working directly with a problem can decide on tools and process in the evolving picture of their project, and their individual talents — not adherence to or avoid-ance of certain ideas — guide whether they achieve success or not.” Now is this not a more elaborate restatement of Agile Principle # 5?
Only in the last para does the author makes some sense when he writes: “………the Industrial Agile that has evolved beyond their control needs to be put to bed.” - where he seems to be either referring to Industrial Agile such as SAFe - or the Agile Industrial Certification Complex - and if that is what he is alluding to - then it is indeed something that has some resonance with me.
So - the prognosis of the demise of Agile is largely unfounded. True - the challenges of Agile / Agility are changing from its early days - but the anticipated death of it largely pre-mature. There is still some juice in this old Agile dog.
I think it makes more contradictions than points (like Shyam SK77 said). Biggest problem I see today and have seen through the years is senseless application of practices without truly understanding the situation you are in, hence my “love” for Cynefin and Dave Snowden’s sense making agenda. Problem is of course the size of toolbox you need to deal with uncertainty, this isn’t easily acquired and easy is what some execs are looking for when they hire the usual suspects and their miracle magicians. Developing stuff is still hard work, it just got more complex due to uncertainty and agile practices help with that if applied correctly but it is still hard work. 50+ and still smiling