Agile mishap #3: The Agile Bubble

The Agile community has turned into a self-absorbing and populistic system of people who think they know better than the rest of the world. Is this what we want to be?
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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.

In 2019, I had the experience of attending two conferences in a row. The first conference was Agile 2019 in Washington DC, and the second was the Academy of Management (AOM 2019) in Boston. The theme of the latter was “Understanding the Inclusive Organization,” and I attended it as part of my master’s education in management development.

Of course, I did not attend all sessions at both conferences, but upon returning to Denmark and reflecting on the experience, I discovered a pattern: At Agile 2019, all sessions I attended were led by individuals who had developed solutions for common Agile problems, which they were now, more or less eagerly, selling. At AOM 2019, all sessions I attended were led by individuals who were curious about a certain topic and formulating hypotheses as to why it might be so.

Through my reflection, I uncovered the Agile mishap discussed in today’s blog post: The Agile Bubble.

The Agile Bubble is first and foremost characterised by a general presence of self-absorption in the Agile community. If you observe the selection of speakers at various Agile conferences and meet-ups, you’ll find it’s the usual suspects delivering variations on topics that have made them either fully or semi-famous within the community. These topics often relate to a model or framework crafted together at their kitchen tables at home. While they may have incorporated some science or research into their work, the results of their efforts are rarely scientifically verified.

Secondly, the Agile Bubble has become a self-referring system that is becoming increasingly disinterested in what the outside world has to offer. Did the Agile founders set a new direction for the world of work? Yes, absolutely. However, the world has caught up and has much to offer for further developing what it means to be “Agile.”

The Agile Bubble has led to an increasing degree of populism within the agile community and a framing of the outside world as either bad or at least unskilled in dealing with work in an ever-changing and unpredictable world.

The outside world boasts many great thinkers, philosophers, scientists, scholars, and consultants who engage daily with complex and adaptive systems. You can find them in various universities and business schools around the globe. Just be curious and reach out. The only thing you risk is becoming wiser.

I hope this blog post gave you some food for thought. In my next blog post we will address Agile Mishap #4: Incompetent Coaches And Trainers.

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The Agile Bubble

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Agile mishap #3: The Agile Bubble

The Agile community has turned into a self-absorbing and populistic system of people who think they know better than the rest of the world. Is this what we want to be?

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