post-agilism

Recently more and more people are reporting unease at what appears to be the entrenched dogmatism of Agile with a capital ‘a’. The terms “fragilism” and “post-Agilism” are gaining currency. For example, here is a quick sample of quotes I found in the blogsphere in the last few weeks:

Jonathan Kohl
“I’m a fan of Agile practices, and find I draw on values and ideas from Scrum and XP quite often. However, I have become a process skeptic. I’m tired of what a colleague complained to me about several years ago: “Agile hype”. I’m tired of hearing about “Agile this” and “Agile that”, especially when a lot of what is now branded as “Agile” was also branded as “Total Quality Management”, or <insert buzzword phrase here> in the past.”
Pragmatic Dave Thomas
“It’s kinda like ‘My way or you’re not doing it properly.’ A lot of blackmail. A lot of absolutes. And to me that is not what agility is all about, so I pull back from that. I don’t want to be associated with that.” (Link via pliantalliance.org)
Steve Bate
“The XP community has softened its claims a bit over the last few years, but it’s generally still a bit dogmatic for my tastes and produces too much propaganda.”
Philip Nelson, commenting on a post by Dan North
“Many agile aficionados tell those resistant or unsuccessful at adopting agile techniques that you must adopt all of them and “do them right”, whatever that means, to be successful. I think reality is that organizations need to evolve”

I tend to agree with all of these comments, although I find it hard to be surprised by what’s happened. The introduction of agile methods was definitely needed, and was a breath of fresh air at the time. But I keep thinking of the Life of Brian, in which almost anyone can become a prophet, with their own followers who interpret the most mundane things as having religious significance. I don’t pretend to understand crowds or group psychology, but maybe dogmatism is just what happens.

Maybe “just” having values is too ethereal. Maybe large groups need slogans and white books and cult leaders and dogma and prescriptions. I agree with “do the thing right” as opposed to “do the ‘right’ thing”, but is that enough?

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