An Agile Decade: Past, Present, and Future

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An Agile Decade: Past, Present, and Future

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There have been some troubling trends I’ve seen in the last 10 years of my agile journey. I’d like to share some of them in order to bring them into the light of day.

To be fully transparent, this post was inspired by one that Melissa Perri made here. While the format isn’t the same, it inspired me to look backward in order to look forward.

The lists are in no particular order. That being said, if something made it on the list, I think it’s important!

1)     The Project Managers are running the Asylum – Somehow, we’ve lost our way. Early on, agile was about the team (see #7). Now it seems as if we’re all about the project managers, managers, and other leadership roles. How do I make this case? Have you ever heard of an Agile Project Manager? Or an Agile PMO?  Or an Agile Steering Committee? Case made!

2)     Frameworks to Rule them All – Somehow, we’ve lost our way. It seems everyone is looking for a toolkit or silver bullet solution. The frameworks, particularly the scaling frameworks, are taking over the world. Not for the good of customers or teams, but for the good of the folks selling them. Shame!

3)     The Unfortunate ART of Embellishment – Somehow, we’ve lost our way. That is everyone is an Agile Coach today! The decade has seemed to create lots of folks with credentials, but fewer and fewer with real experience. And beyond experience, the wisdom to understand the basic principles of agility. Then walking their own talk.

4)     DOING (Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, etc.) – Somehow, we’ve lost our way. Now it seems that blindly following the definition of Scrum or other “frameworks” without thinking or understanding the underlying principles is the point. You’re not doing Scrum is viewed as being incredibly bad. Heck, after 20+ years, nobody should just be doing Scrum.

5)     Certifications – Somehow, we’ve lost our way. The world seems to be focused on more, more, more when it comes to certifications and classes. AND revenue ($$$) overrides principles and everything else. Our value seems to be dictated by the number of letters after our name. So sad!

6)     Leaders don’t understand the agile mindset – Somehow, we’ve lost our way. I meet so many leaders who (think) they understand agility. They’ve read books, received certifications, and even some of them have met agile thought leaders. But, when you view their behavior, it’s the same old story. Mindset is indicated by their behavior and not their words. Walking the talk trumps everything.

7)     Where have all the developers gone? Somehow, we’ve lost our way. We’ve lost the view that team members are our most important asset. Everything pales next to caring, feeding, respecting, and listening to our teams. We had much greater respect in the early days of XP. Now we seem to consider people as resources or commodities again.

8)     DevOps and Business Agility – We seem to view these two notions as new and the next steps of agility. In fact, the latest versions of SAFe have included aspects to support them. You know…when SAFe includes it, it’s clearly part of our agile evolution! L

10-years from now, in 2030, I hope we’re seeing the following in agile contexts:

1)     Leaders start going first – I dream of a future where teams no longer are the first to “go Agile”. Instead, leaders are taking the leap first from a training and experiential perspective. And when they ask the teams to explore the possibility, it’s from a perspective of asking and not telling (see #8).

2)     Nobody is talking about “metrics” – I dream of a future state where measures aren’t the point. Outcomes and impacts are the points. And where everyone stops trying to measure people to manage or improve them. Let folks figure out how to improve themselves so they stop looking over their shoulders.

3)     Without posturing, we just do great work – I dream of a future state where beyond all the buzzwords, terminology, positions, baggage, opinions, etc. we simply focus on doing great things. Organizations become flatter, needs become clearer, and innovation thrives. We just focus on getting good shit done.

4)     Joy trumps Everything – I wrote an homage to Led Zeppelin post in 2019 entitled Does anyone remember Laughter? And Rich Sheridan is an inspiration here. I dream of a future where there is renewed joy in the workplace for all. Where you are safe. Where there is diversity. Where you can bring your whole self to work. And where we can get back to the joy of doing great work for our customers & clients.

5)     No Certifications – I dream of a future state where certifications are no longer relevant. Where all of the letters after people’s names on LinkedIn go away. Where people who can’t do and are teaching, stop doing that. And where your evidence-based experience and verifiable deeds speak for your capabilities.

6)     The Craft of Coaching – I dream of a future where there are a few great coaches. Where they walk their talk. They’re principled. They have standards of practice. And they CARE about their clients and working with great teams. And, dare I say it, where they get compensated based on their value and results.

7)     We get back to Post-it Notes – I dream of a future bereft of the importance of tooling in agile contexts. Oh, they’re still there, but they’re not central to the activity. And everyone has moved back to low fidelity, paper-based visualization and collaboration. Yes, even with distributed teams!

8)     Invitation is the Norm – I dream of a future state where “Agile” or “agile” has ceased to be something that is done to or imposed upon people. Just like we don’t make people joyful or happy, we can’t make them be agile. Instead where people are invited to become part of an agile experiment and journey. Where they are inspired to share in the vision and goals.  

I’m not looking for much in the way of commentary or validation of my look backward. The past is indeed in the past. And is there for purely instructional / learning purposes.

But I am very interested in your comments and reactions to my view of the future.

  • Do you agree with my future hopes?

  • Are there any important ones that I missed?

  • What about the “one hope that matters”? Is there one such hope?

Everything we do today is a step towards the future. So, my overall hope is that this post inspires reflection and positive steps towards our shared future.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

 

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