The agile revolution has won. There is no doubt about it. No longer are its evangelists the pioneers who blaze new trails and chart the unknown, like they used to a couple of years ago. Agile principles, methodology, tool sets, even agile lingo, have become mainstream. Frankly, everybody and their dog is “doing agile” these days. Of course, there are pockets of resistance in the more backward (or “conservative” to be more polite) companies, but they are destined to eventually see the error of their ways and switch over. Even the most pointy haired of pointy haired bosses know that if they don’t learn, accept and embrace agile methodologies, they are doomed to very soon become everybody’s laughing stock, not to mention their careers are going to go down the drain.
And that my friends, is agile movement’s doom. The revolution is over. The establishment has struck back, as it usually does, using the strategy it always chooses – assimilation, dilution, extermination.
These days, you can call everything “agile”, even the most ridiculously non-agile concepts and get away with it (“agile RUP”, anybody?). See, the problem is that the PHBs that decided that they absolutely have to “go agile”, at the same time decided that they don’t really want or need to change their habits – instead they will just re-dress and rename their usual processes and culture. Which obviously means two things:
- buying yourself an expensive, yet “agile” tool set, so as to justify inflated budgets
- getting a bunch of costly certification or two, so that nobody higher up in the food chain can claim they are not “agile”
I have noticed quite a few comments on this site, typically posted by the “foot soldier” developers, that “this whole ‘agile’ thing is same old, same old. All it does is bring us more meetings, more reporting, more micro management”. How typical. Agile processes are being introduced in companies without paying attention to the absolute fundamental need for a culture shift – it really is “same old, same old”, it is just dressed funny. The end result is that teams mindlessly follow “agile” process steps, because the expensive, certified consultant told them to, or a costly tool, mandated by the upper management, forces them to. And they fill out more and more paperwork — even more than they used to before they went agile. Unit test reports (usually hand-filled in Excel). Ridiculously detailed time tracking. Insanely elaborate acceptance criteria for user stories. Torture of daily standups (an hour of it every day, with mandatory report-out to management). It is all in there. There is not a trace of principles of communication, respect, trust, self-organization left in such teams (it has never been there in the first place), they do not evolve to becoming creative and effective, but they are still “agile” and they can prove it! They are certified!
And quite honestly, we have brought this upon us ourselves. Instead of concentrating on spreading the word about the principles – which is hard, because traditionally-bred teams and managers have trouble understanding, not to mention converting – the agile community has concentrated on proliferating certifications. Certified Scrum Master? Scrum Practitioner? Scrum Trainer? Grand Klan Master? Chief Lizard Wrangler? Cappo di Tutti Cappi? Sure, why not, just shell our a bunch of monies and sit there for two days, pretending to listen to some bloke that already is certified by us. Admit it – it is a Ponzi scheme. There is no proof whatsoever that becoming “certified” makes you a better developer or project manager – but it does mean that the thing is easier to sell to top level management. ISO certifications and CMMI server the same purpose – improving the chances of selling consulting services to managers. And of selling software to customers (“gee, they must be good, they have ISO 9001 and CMMI 5, let’s buy from them”).
It does not stop there. Soon, agile is going to have a “maturity model” of its own – backed by IBM, no less. Who cares if it is worthless — it is from IBM, so it is “professional”, right? I wouldn’t be surprised if the next move is for some big player to simply go out and acquire trademarks to all relevant agile processes – “Scrum(TM) and you can only use it under license form Microsoft”? “XP(TM) brought to you by IBM (and we better not catch you using it without paying us)”. Why not? What’s to stop them?
The revolution is over. It is time for a new one.
Or is it? I invite you to a discussion. Convince me that I am wrong.