re: What does "agile" mean these days? VIEW POST


Agile has become a marketing term for companies. Seemingly every developer job ad mentions how the company is "agile", then you start there and realise they have no idea what they are doing and it's really just some mutated form of waterfall. For every person trying to keep the ship steered straight, there is an overzealous boss or manager who thinks they can turn the process on and off whenever they want.

Even many of the companies that are doing Scrum/Kanban/X flavour are not doing them properly. Some companies pick and choose parts from Agile methodologies and make up the rest. The result is some form of broken faux-agile that ends up not boosting workflow or productivity whatsoever.

And then you have the companies that implement these kinds of methodologies purely to micromanage their employees. Agile started out as something created by developers for developers, then the consultants and management got involved, and saw it as a framework for micromanaging their employees. Scrum is a great example of this, the concept of a daily standup meeting, (every day you're asked to say what you worked on yesterday, what are you working on today).

If anyone doubts it's not about micromanagement, look no further than the concept of burndown graphs and all of the other charts which visually plot the performance of teams and individual team members. People in management ranks absolutely loves graphs and other meaningless metrics which mean nothing in the land of software. The only thing that should matter to developers is shipping, that's it.

The whole idea of sprints fails to take into account developers taking days off because they are sick, mental health days, etc. They assume that you have X amount of hours in a two or three week sprint period, but we all know that is not the case. What about emergencies that require deviating from the sprint to fix? If you're using Scrum, deviating or changing the sprint once it begins is technically not allowed.

To me, the worse parts of Agile can all be traced back to Scrum. Daily standups, planning poker, sprint retrospectives. It assumes you have stable priorities, introduces multiple concepts such as boards, burndowns and backlogs, disallows changing mid-sprint. If Scrum were easy, there wouldn't be Agile coaches or entire companies dedicated to helping other companies implement it. To do proper Scrum/Agile, it's become this big song and dance.

Agile has lost its meaning and increasingly, it has become irrelevant (especially during the current pandemic).


Yeah, Agile lost something when Processes and Tools actually took over. That and the fact a lot of companies absolutely cannot give up control and realize that you cannot be agile with one program manager on top of everybody (it was precisely the main point of it!).

Agility require trust and not so many are ready for it…


Agile requires organizational change, that's the main issue. Business needs to be much more integrated with the software development process. That's why you have the notion of Product owners, but if they're still too far removed from day to day business you'll never get trust between the two.
I think that's where a lot of companies struggle


"Agile started out as a methodology"
Please, wording matters, read the definition of methodology, of method, of framework, and let's avoid confusion.


@arnaud Semantics. There is no confusion here. My comment is pretty clear in the message that Agile and its numerous flavours like Scrum, etc have become bastardised and broken over the years. What started out as a way to help streamline how work flows from conception to realisation has become a way for managers and executives to manage the performance and expectations of their employees on a molecular level. Agile doesn't exist anymore.

agile was never intended to be a strict process to follow, the manifest clearly states this. What we have now is exactly what Agile is not. A strict process, where consultants come in trained in this process and selling the process as "Agile coaches".
The bastardization comes from the fact that people have made this process rigid again just like waterfall, instead it should adapt to each individual company and its processes. You take what works, you leave out what doesn't. That is what the Agile manifesto was aimed to achieve.
It was never just meant for developers, what would be the point of that when you have to collaborate with stakeholders and to ensure you actually build what a business can use. It should narrow the gap between developers and business, that is the point.


You're right, many things which were intended to improve process were taken over by managers and used against developers:

  • Planning using hours is very popular and most managers I met in my career reluctant to switch to story points because they are not so obvious to them, especially as managers' level increases. Actually even time-based planning can take into account days off, sick leaves and other stuff, but many managers refuse to accept idea of ideal vs real hours.
  • Original idea of stand-ups is to share information between developers, but many companies use it as developers' everyday reports to management. While original purpose is extremely helpful and boosts cooperation and awareness inside the team, reporting just kills motivation and underscores hierarchy (which also contradicts the spirit of agile). In one company where I was working it looked even more derogatory: during stand-up manager was sitting in front of his laptop and picking developers who should report while team was standing. When I pointed out that this is wrong and there should be no report and manager should be standing as well, I was fired :)
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