Agile Mishap #2: All frameworks are wrong but mine

Do you think we have so many Agile frameworks because there is a need for all of them? Neither do we. Could it be that personal ambitions and wealth could be a motivation factor for some of them? Let’s explore!
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In a series of blog posts I am discussing the question: If it is not dead then what went wrong with Agile? If you have not read the introduction blog post already (What went wrong with Agile?) I suggest you go there first before continuing reading here.

Have you noticed the increasing numbers of Agile frameworks that have emerged over the past years? I mentioned a handful of them in my latest blog post. Do we really need all of them? I would say no, and in this blog post I will share my opinions about why the market is so overwhelmed by so-called Agile frameworks.

I recently commented on a LinkedIn posting promoting Agile 2, an initiative that claims to be the new beginning of Agile. As I understand it, part of the motive for this initiative is the same as the motivation behind this series of blog posts: the observations that many people and organisations experience a lack of success using Agile frameworks and methodologies. Back to my comment which was: “I’ll personally wait for Agile 3.0 as I think it will be more mature and solve all problems. (irony might apply).” Do I have to mention that the originator of the post became quite defensive after that?

To be honest, there is actually nothing wrong with Agile 2, so how come I had this blunt and direct reaction? Well, a war of frameworks and methodologies seems to be going on. They are often led by so-called thought leaders promoting their own approach and claiming theirs to be the best. Looking at Agile 2 again (which is not a framework, by the way, I just ruthlessly placed it in the same pot), it is defined by 6 values and 10 categories of principles (all in all there are 43 principles). All of them are fine but to be honest, there are none of them that actually goes beyond what basic Agile essentially is. Even without the version number calling something Agile 2, is in many ways stating that Agile is something fixed. It is not! Agile is designed to evolve over time. Calling something Agile 2 is like calling people during the industrial revolution for Humans 2 and people during the information age for Humans 3. Nonsense, right?

This blog post is not intended to single out Agile 2, it is just the most recent example I have. I could also have used UnFix, Scrum @ Scale, Modified Agile for Hardware Development or anything else as examples.

My claim is that we do not need so many different Agile frameworks or methodologies because in the end it is about making Agile your own, by doing what makes sense in your context. “Do not use somebody else’s blueprint because it is simply not good enough” – Gary Hamel said something like this in his Reinventing Management talk. I think he was right, but unfortunately people like buying or selling blueprints, because it gives a sense of control and comfort. A false sense though.

My hypothesis about the increasing number of Agile frameworks and methodologies is that it comes out of ego and greed (sorry to be so rude, I just think it is about time that somebody said this out loud).
First of all it is a matter of status for a thought leader. If one is promoting somebody else’s framework, then one ranks lower in the hierarchy. Nobody wants to do that if you are an Agile alpha-person. One rather wants to be right, admired and gathering followers.

Secondly, it is about the pyramid game of selling workshops and certifications: If my thing can become THE thing, my retirement plan can then be based on others selling my thing. All I have to do is to develop new versions or additions in the future and everything is good.

I am not against people being rich and famous, but there is a tendency for many people to lose their humbleness once it happens. You could call this thought leader narcissism. Losing your humbleness makes you think you are always right, and then you become biassed and blind. I think we see that too often in the Agile community. Becoming biassed and blind you have lost your ability to really help people the best way in their context and instead you are just imposing your opinion (or Agile religion) on them, which is a shame.

Agile is what you and your organisation make it by adapting the values and principles of Agile in the way you do your daily work. You do not become agile by buying somebody’s snake oil or by following a false messiah. You grow it within yourself and your organisation.

I know this blog post might seem a little controversial, but I hope I have caught your interest in avoiding Agile mishaps. Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series which is about the Agile Bubble.


Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

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