It’s Super Easy to Nit-Pick

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It’s Super Easy to Nit-Pick

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I read this LinkedIn post by Cliff Berg the other day, and it made me sad and a bit angry. 

But not on the level you might think.

You see, I don’t care about Agile 2 or whether it’s better or worse than the original agile (Agile 1, Agile Manifesto, methods begun in the late 1990s and early 2000s, etc.). I don’t care to try to compare features, duel on definitions, complain about the past, or build my reputation by nit-picking something to death.

What makes me really sad is the apparent lack of respect that Cliff has for the past efforts and ideas of those whose thoughts he is building on.

What came to mind is that quote by Isaac Newton that says—

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”.

I don’t see Cliff respecting or acknowledging those that have come before him. The people, the ideas, the methods, and the intentions. The original manifesto and movement created a tidal wave of changed thinking regarding how we build software. I think it, and they deserve more than he’s giving them.

I’ve copied his original post in-line below, and I’ve highlighted the positive acknowledgments he made to the original work—

The Agile Manifesto has serious flaws.

The Manifesto was a strong document. It has some serious flaws, though.

For one, it does not explain the intention or thinking behind each value. As a result, people misinterpret the values. E.g., “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” – that is a great value, but if a tool is critical for, say, a deployment, and the tool is down, then guess what? The tool then becomes most important.

So it depends.

And the focus on face-to-face communication diminished the value of written communication – but written communication has immense value.

And the Manifesto led people to think that there is a “best way” for everyone. But people differ in how they communicate and work best.
Also, what about data? The Manifesto mentions software, but not data. OMG, talk about missing the elephant in the room.

And it completely misses the critical importance of leadership. Leadership is arguably the _MOST_ important thing in any multi-person effort. But the Manifesto is anti-leadership to a large degree – a real dysfunction. People in a team are not autonomous – otherwise, it would not be a team. And teams are not autonomous – otherwise, they are not in an organization. What matters is that leadership styles are empowering and supportive – good leadership, not no leadership.

While the Manifesto had some good stuff in it
, it is very flawed. That is why Agile 2 was created – to take a more thoughtful and careful approach to the problem of how to achieve organizational agility.

I guess it shows me the “imbalance” of the critique Cliff is making in the name of Agile 2. It just doesn’t seem fair, balanced, or respectful to me.

While I was preparing to write this article, Cliff turned commenting off and removed the ~300 comments to the post. Here’s what he said as to why he did that—

UPDATE:

I have removed the ability to comment on this post.

The reason is that while the vast majority of readers apparently read the post with its true intent, some read it as “The Manifesto is all wrong”, and then made ad hominem attacks.

There were a few posters who disagreed and posted polite and specific critiques. Those were appreciated, and I responded to each as best as I could.

There are some Agile coaches who are very aggressive who make it their mission to “take down the dissenter”. Because of those, it seems that this forum does not have psychological safety 🙁

Quite ironic.

By the way, I did not create Agile 2. It was created by 15 people. I was one of them. I believe in it.

I can’t verify it now, but I don’t think as many comments supported Cliff as he implies. I remember one person who observed the same disrespectful nature point that inspired me and that I am doubling down on. Whoever you were, thank you.

To Cliff (and potentially all of the authors of Agile 2) and all others who love to nit-pick about what’s come before, I’d like to encourage you to change your tone. To one that—

  • Is more respectful of those that came before you, their ideas, and their contributions.

  • That doesn’t compare the Agile 2 authors (15) to the Agile Manifesto authors (17) in some false equivalency.

  • Healthily acknowledges the goodness that is “agile” before replacing it with your own concoctions.

  • Creates a more balanced commentary.

There’s an attitude of “this sucks” and “we’ve got something much better” in your writing. Perhaps strive to balance that a bit. Aren’t you placing the word “Agile” in your Agile 2 update? That means that ~80% of it is based on the shoulders of others’ work 😉

In a word, I’d love us all to bring more civility to our public and private discourses. And I’d love to assume positive intent on your part, but it’s hard because of the sharply critical and imbalanced view you’re bringing to the table.

Here’s a thought – why don’t you write a “thank you letter” about all of the stuff in “Agile 1” that you appreciate? That you’ve seen work over time. That set the stage for where we are today. And remember to appreciate the founders. Really buckle down and remember and positively acknowledge them.

I’d love to see that as a preface for Agile 2 and all your ongoing critiques.

Respectfully yours,

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

BTW: there’s a wonderful event coming up that you might want to attend. It’s the 14th Annual Give Thanks to Scrum conference. It would be a nice way for you to begin appreciating what’s come before…

 

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