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Agile Is Dead: The Angry Developer Version

Yesterday, Dave Thomas wrote an incredible post about the death of "Agile" and the birth of "Agility." Words have never resonated so well with me, and while I don't have to say this for everyone to agree, truer words have never been said about the current landscape of software development. Dave is 100% spot on about everything he wrote. My wife is also incredibly happy to know that my constant complaining about software development has been validated by another breathing human.

While I have never met Dave Thomas, from reading his books (thanks Dave!) and writings I get the impression that he is a pretty nice guy. Unfortunately for you, I'm not. You see, I work incredibly hard at my craft, and if I could live in my parent's basement eating Totino's pizza rolls while making cool open source tools all day long, none of this "Agile" stuff would matter to me. But, alas, it does because I need money and "Agile" is what helps me put up with the disarray that the world of business people is.

But as Dave has so kindly pointed out, my "Agile" and your "Agile" aren't the same thing. My Agile (I'm going to stop quoting it now) is iterating quickly, constantly reflecting and collaborating with the customer to deliver software in a timely manner. Your Agile is name tags, notebooks, seminars, SaaS project management tools and Barney the Dinosaur scratch-and-sniff stickers for all that I know.

The Agile Bait-and-Switch

In my short career I've been on a number of job interviews and have worked on several teams at different companies. Guess what? All of them have claimed they are Agile. I've done my best during the interview process to get a feel for how they work without jeopardizing my candidacy for the job. My only regret is that I should have jeopardized my candidacy more by probing into their interpretation of Agile.

I've been in a three day long sprint planning meeting for a six week "sprint." I've seen user story cards with nothing but "Make dashboard better" written on them by Certified Scrum Masters. It's pathetic. Even more pathetic is that I accepted their job offer, but I didn't know any better. They told me they were Agile, after all.

Organizing Around Tools Instead Of People

The above header is certainly not one of the tenets of the Agile Manifesto. Yet, every time I talk with a so-called Agile company about how they work I get a laundry list of SaaS Web applications. Trello, Basecamp, JIRA, Pivotal -- none of these tools existed when the Agile Manifesto was carved into Kent Beck's chest while he was being forcefully held to an Altair 8080 by the other fifteen Agile Manifesto founders (it's still unclear which founder did the carving).

These tools aren't the solution. Agile doesn't need a solution, it is the solution, or rather a guiding light to the solution for your particular team. These tools are masquerading around pretending to be the solution to people. People that haven't learned what Agile is all about. These people just hit the Wikipedia page for Agile after seeing it mentioned in a job post because their degree in Communications couldn't get them any other gig.

The Path To Happiness

There's probably a person on your team that once raised their hand and said something about building software better. They likely mentioned ideas about building features with higher certainty, less meetings, and more learning. Go find that person. They are likely a member of your local Agile user group. Unlike you, they've taken the time to understand what Agility is all about and they were interested in helping you until your team stared at them like a pack of antelope.

Change starts with us, the bastions of Agility with a capital A. It's our responsibility to inform business leaders and fellow programmers of what agile is. Agile is so simple and beautiful that it is summed up eloquently in a Geocities-esque web page that hasn't changed, ever. The charlatans pimping courses and seminars need to be ostracized. The best advocates of Agility are us: the developers. Developers created the Agile Manifesto, let's carry that torch forward for them.

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