Is Agile (= Scrum) failing?

I can not stop thinking about James Shores article. So lets deconstruct it:

It’s odd to talk about the decline and fall of the agile movement, especially now that it’s so popular, but I actually think the agile movement has been in decline for several years now.

Wonderful entry – an eye catcher. Well written. A provocation. It so intrigue that you have to read more. That is a powerful opening and it promise a lot to the reader.

The State of the Art

I’ve seen a shift in my business over the last few years. In the beginning, people would call me to help them introduce Agile, and I would sell them a complete package that included agile planning, cross-functional teams, and agile engineering practices.

Now many people who call me already have Agile in place (they say), but they’re struggling.

So what is this statement? An analysis that his business has changed. Obviously you can not make now money with selling the whole package. That is form a business perspective not very good. 

They’re having trouble meeting their iteration commitments, they’re experiencing a lot of technical debt, and testing takes too long. So they hire me to help them with one of these things. When I go visit, I see a team that is nominally agile, but is suffering huge numbers of problems and is anything but the joyful, settled, smooth-running workplace I expect from an agile organization.

“Nominally agile” – what does this mean? Is the team only claiming to be agile? Then he said suddenly “agile organization.”

Other consultants I’ve talked to report the same experience. “Rescuing Scrum teams keeps me in business,” joked one colleague. It’s funny because it’s true.

Ok – this is his premise. He explains based on empirical observation that a lot of people fail to do good agile software development and immediately he blends agile with Scrum!

And he starts the attack: “Rescuing Scrum teams keeps me in business.”

A nice rhetoric figure. An extremely good way to go from the general “agile” teams might have problems to “Scrum teams have problems.” Going from general to special is a well described way of good rhetorical argumentation.

And it goes further into the direction …

The Role of Scrum

Scrum is undeniably the winner of the agile method wars.

Tobias already made clear that this statement is a completely political argument with not basis:

> Scrum is undeniably the winner of the agile method wars.
This statement is ridiculous and shows both great ignorance and childish petulance.

If it is true that “Rescuing Scrum teams keeps me in business” then Scrum is doing exactly what it set out to do. Don’t you get it?

It is utterly shocking to me how people with the reputation of Jim Shore, Bob Martin, Mary Poppendieck, Micah Martin (to name a few) can all so completely misunderstand the point of Scrum. And it is utterly depressing that those same people are trying to start some sort of turf war over all of this. The winner of the agile method wars? Please. Scrum does not even claim to be “a method”

And in the next sentences the attack is so obvious that the interest behind this article is obvious:

Thanks to the Scrum Alliance’s vast (and lucrative) network of Certified Scrum Trainers and Certified ScrumMaster courses, when people say “Agile,” they usually mean Scrum. So when “Agile” fails, it’s generally Scrum that’s failing. And Scrum is incomplete, purposefully so.

So by not talking about agile, or why it fails but by saying that Scrum is basically what people mean when the say agile and by mentioning that the “(… lucrative) network of Certified Scrum Trainers and Certified ScrumMaster courses” it is on us readers not to look behind the scenery. 

I had a short look on James Website:

What do we see:

  1. Agile Training
  2. Consulting
  3. His book: Agile Development.

So obviously the author of this blog makes his money based on agile consulting and training.

By his own words: Scrum is the winner of the agile method wars he is because he is part of the “agile troops” in the loosing armee. He is not part of the winning team: Scrum consultants.

So – now he needs to rationalize this attack

(…) because Scrum works in short cycles and doesn’t include any engineering practices, it’s very easy for teams using Scrum to throw out design. Up-front design doesn’t work when you’re using short cycles, and Scrum doesn’t provide a replacement. Without continuous, incremental design, Scrum teams quickly dig themselves a gigantic hole of technical debt.

That is so fantastic! I was rolling on the floor when I read this. I remember Kens talk during the Agile 2006, when he started to give first his great talk “A Canary in the Cole Mine” He was bashed! People left the room because Ken was repeating again and again: We Software Developers need to increase the profession of our industry.

He made clear that most of us deliver crap. I have also seen it. I recently came from a team where the seniors now claim they do not care anymore about quality because now the team decides and they have nothing to say anymore. Ridicules but true. 

James blames Scrum for this situation – what an idiosyncrasy. Ken and Jeff introduced the idea of technical debt to a wide audience. They might not have seen this first, but they and all Scrum Trainers world wide made this a topic in the industry. And now Scrum gets blamed because it gets exposed. That is depressing.

I will continue on this … during the next days.

One response to “Is Agile (= Scrum) failing?

  1. I wrote my own reply to all agilists who are preaching that certain agile practices are required to be called ‘agile’:

    The Decline and Fall of Agilists
    http://www.noop.nl/2009/02/the-decline-and-fall-of-agilists.html

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