Agile is Dead

Agile is dead.

Agile has reached a critical mass of name recognition which, because of its very popularity, has doomed itself to the trash bin of the outdated and out-of-style.   Like Facebook, Green Day, and Hungarian notation Agile is now the domain of the middles (middle-aged, middle-class, mid-managers living in the middle of suburbia, driving their mid-sized cars to their mid-sized companies.)  In other words it is main-stream.  The term Agile is officially a part of the corporate environment and thus lost its street cred with the cool kids in dev world.

Don’t believe me?  Go through you LinkedIn connections, count the number of people who list “SCRUM” or “Agile Methodologies” as a skill, then count up how many of them can actually tell you what those phrases even mean.  Or count the number of times you have seen an Agile team who has not deployed code to production in the last 6 months.  It’s depressing isn’t it?

What happened?  How could such a promising movement become just another cliché in the in the Big Book of Overused business terms?  The answer is us…the developers, the architects, the Agile evangelists.  We treated Agile as an end to itself.  A panacea meant to save us from “The Business” and its mind-numbing bureaucracy.  In our rush to the Nirvana of the perfect sprint planning session we lost sight of the value of Agile and in the process created our own quagmire of mindless ceremonies.

Agile is not the end goal and neither is standups, burn-down charts, refinement meetings, or sprint velocity.  The end goal is, and always has been, to deliver value.  Agile is simply a tool to help us accomplish this job.  By focusing on the tool we missed the entire point.  If you are not regularly delivering value you are not doing your job.

It is time to get back to the basics of delivering value.  Delivering value is really not that complex.  Here are the steps:

  1. Start with an idea: Do you have an idea for a feature that needs developed?  Do a little research, makes some informed guesses, and apply some common sense.  This is called strategy.  This is simply your best guess at how you are going to beat your competition.  (You don’t need an MBA to figure that out)
  2. Run a test: Don’t get stuck in step 1. You will not come up with the perfect plan.  Either one of three things are going to happen 1) Your initial assumptions will be wrong 2) The world will have changed by the time you finish your plan 3) somebody else will beat you to market.  Find a part of your idea you can implement now and try it out on real life people.  Stop with the over analysis and bias towards action.
  3. Learn: You have real live people using your real life feature. It is no longer hypothetical.  You are going to learn way more by testing your hypothesis than you are by discussing it.  This is called empirical evidence.
  4. Do it again: (and again, and again, and again…)

By repeating this cycle you will be able learn from your mistakes, start producing value (making money) early, cut your work in process (and thus your costs), and ultimately respond more quickly to the needs of your market by nimbly reacting to a changing marketplace.  This mobility will set you apart from your slower moving competitors who do not share your agile mindset.  Move quickly, learn from your mistakes, change direction easily, and overall…be Agile,

Long live Agile