Agile isn’t Declining, It’s Thriving!

On our Agile 2024 edition of That Change Show I sat down with Chris Shinkle, John Tanner and Quinton Quartel to discuss the noise around the topic that Agile is declining. Here’s a short summary of the conversation.

There is plenty of noise surrounding the topic that agile is declining. Our expert panel of seasoned agilists recently had a chat about this and talked about why agile is not declining, but instead thriving.

The first reason is overemphasis on processes and tools: agile has become too focused on processes and tools, rather than the underlying principles of collaboration, customer focus, and continuous improvement.

  • John Tanner believes that every good idea and every bad idea gets labeled as “agile” and that there’s been a decade of selling agile without defining what it is. He emphasizes that agile should be a voluntary movement focused on technical excellence and collaboration.
  • Quinton Quartel adds that agile is not a method but a set of values and principles. He encourages continuous experimentation and uncovering new ways of working, rather than sticking to methods invented 20 years ago.
  • Chris Shinkle highlights that the application of agile is contextual and should be adapted to the specific needs of the business. He questions the value of focusing solely on being agile without measuring the real business benefits.
  • Jason Little points out that many organizations add agile processes onto existing teams without changing the underlying technical practices, leading to frustration and a perception that agile doesn’t work. He suggests that organizations need to change their systems to support agile teams rather than forcing agile upon them.

The second reason is the lack of technical excellence: many agile teams lack the technical skills and practices necessary to deliver high-quality software quickly and reliably.

  • John Tanner emphasizes the importance of technical excellence, pairing, and XP practices as core components of agile. He believes that the technical conversation should not be separated from the agile conversation.
  • Chris Shinkle agrees, stating that developer-level practices like pairing, test-driven development, and continuous integration are essential for agile success. He finds it surprising if organizations are not doing some version of these practices today.
  • Jason Little shares an example of how showing a development manager a simple way to do automated testing had a significant impact because they had never been exposed to such practices before. He highlights the importance of technical skills in enabling agile teams to deliver value.

The third reason is the forced adoption of Agile: Agile is often forced upon teams and organizations without their buy-in or understanding, leading to resentment and resistance.

  • John Tanner believes that agile is only successful if it’s voluntary. He argues that forcing teams into agile processes and certifications creates resentment and leads to a backlash against agile.
  • Jason Little shares an experience where agile was used as an excuse to make teams work harder, leading to a negative perception of agile. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the needs of the organization and adapting agile practices accordingly.
  • Chris Shinkle shares an anecdote about a client who experienced a better work-life balance after adopting agile, highlighting the positive impact agile can have on individuals and teams when implemented thoughtfully.

In conclusion, while there are valid concerns about the current state of agile, our expert panel believes that agile is not declining but evolving. By focusing on the core principles of collaboration, customer focus, continuous improvement, and technical excellence, organizations can overcome the challenges and achieve the benefits that agile promises.

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