Has Agile lost the spring in its step?

Why people are turning from the world's most popular software development methodology

9th March 2015

Nothing lasts, that’s entropy for you. Shelley’s famous poem, Ozymandias, reminds us that the belief we have created or mastered anything worthwhile is just mankind’s hubris. Software development methodologies fall from grace *sigh* get over it.

A few things have happened that lends support to this view, not least the announcement that Microsoft SharePoint 2016 will be announced at Ignite 2015. Since its predecessor is 2013, this release must follow the longest Sprint and largest Backlog ever defined! If someone tells you that the SharePoint team are agile, because they work in short cycles on requests that are typed into something called a Backlog, just laugh and point out that the consumer represents the business people they are supposed to have worked with on a daily basis.

Far more telling about Agile's declining popularity is the fact that over the years, more than ninety percent of the people I have met who work in Agile teams have never read the principles of the Agile Manifesto, of those that did many found its messages confusing. “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.”   What? Why? How? Most Agile workers didn’t even know it existed. They signed up for jobs in companies who inducted them into their habitual way of working (often a bastardised version of Agile) and just slipped into gear. They never questioned, never fully understood, and thus never achieved the status of being Agile at all. After all to be ‘something’ you must understand what you are, only then can you infect others with a pure strain and avoid the risk of spreading a virulent sub-optimal version. Just using the terms and following a day-to-day recipe does not make a team Agile. Understanding why Agile exists in the first place, the good it delivers compared to alternative ways of working, and how it avoids problems that would otherwise ensue, is true Agility. PMs putting tasks on a Backlog for a team that goes to a meeting every morning and delivers code once a fortnight is less than half the story.

As a result of the lip service to the methodology many Agile teams fail to deliver better results than non-Agile teams. Sometimes the results from a business perspective are far worse. No surprise then that over time we should find fewer Agile exponents and the ones we do find are a little less vocal. The silver bullet is a little bit tarnished but we should not mind, only when the dead chrysalis is peeled apart does a shiny new butterfly emerge.

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