TL; DR: Have we reached Peak Agile?
There has never been a shortage of articles claiming that Agile is either dead, failing, disrespectful, or useless, with authors ranging from respected signatories of the Agile Manifesto to click baiters to people who never experienced the real thing in the first thus lacking a standard for comparison. (See the links below.)
The question from my perspective, though, is: Have we finally have reached peak agile?
Why I Am Concerned that the Peak Might Be Near
Some readers may know that I curate a weekly newsletter called Food for Agile Thought. I source my content mainly from more than 1,700 RSS feeds I check for interesting articles. I also scan other sources like newsletters and communities such as Reddit (reluctantly) or Hackernoon.
Over recent months, I have noticed a few things that made me think:
- The agile-industrial complex is embracing ‘agile’ to ensure further growth by addressing the issues they sold one or two decades earlier, such as the shareholder value approach. (See some recent McKinsey posts, for example, such as Building agile capabilities: The fuel to power your agile ‘body.’)
- The incumbents are on the move. For example, the Project Management Institute is on a shopping spree to bolster its competence in the agile domain, acquiring Disciplined Agile and FLEX.
- Within the community, meaningful discourse seems to become harder even among those that claim to embrace communication. Support the notion that ‘agile’ is disrespecting the ‘developer’ on Hackernoon, and engagement is ensured—it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. (In my opinion, this partisan divide at the cost of the competition of ideas also points at peak agile.)
- While certificates prove to a valuable investment from a practitioner’s perspective, see the Scrum Master Trends Report 2019, there is an unhealthy obsession with collecting them on the business side. (I increasingly receive inquiries from HR folks that explicitly define the purpose of a Scrum workshop to obtain certificates for all participants. The laggards are trying to catch up by applying their traditional approach to becoming agile: “roll-outs” based on top-down decisions triggering initiative centered around outsourcing the hard part to consultancies and mass-training employees.)
- Are you an aspiring thought leader? Just add ‘agile’ to any niche, and you are good to go: agile marketing, agile HR, agile whatever. (Which, by the way, makes discovering signal in the noise so much more laborious.)
- Finally, new relevant content is created both at a lower rate and is becoming significantly more specialized, thus addressing a smaller audience. At the same time, there is an increase in content produced for marketing and SEO purposes, remixing existing content.