Scaling Agile is not the Path to Business Agility

Back then, when we were in the engine room, we all knew that one of the by-products of misguided Agile software development was an increase in technical debt. That to deliver working software at speed, we traded off reuse and generated some level of fragmentation. This sort of waste was acceptable as we worked to prioritise responsiveness over efficiency.

We knew that we had to stop and clean up on an ongoing basis. The technical term for this technique is called refactoring

.. As we matured, we started differentiating between efficiency and effectiveness. We realised that our focus on velocity was killing agility, that technical discipline is necessary to enable and maintain responsiveness.

..There are attempts to aggregate initiatives into roadmaps, evolve the strategy based on insights, and enable better innovation accounting, but if you go through the literature available, the focus is on the process, not the customer.

Andrew Ng warns us that as we move from the Internet Era to the Artificial Intelligence Era, we will likely need to shift our approach radically. In the internet Era, we focused on AB testing, on short cycle times, and on pushing decision making to engineers and product managers. Sounds familiar? It should, these are all linchpins of Agile.

.. When it comes to codifying and envisioning what enterprise/business agility looks like, the Agile movement is falling short of expectations. In parallel, the digital agencies and consulting firms that are stepping into this white space, lack the independence to pull it off successfully no matter how many articles are published in the Harvard Business Review.

.. The companies that were once known for exceptional product design innovation, fail to recognise until it is too late that they are losing their most loyal customers because they neglect to design the experience ecosystem thoughtfully. I decided to use a hardware example to represent best the fragmented experiences customers endure when interacting with the Enterprise. Yes, I’m looking at you Apple, the dongle company.

.. The enterprise found itself owning a multitude of disconnected platforms, solutions, and products. Quality, security, and privacy suffered as the years of decentralised velocity at the edges generated a bloated, complicated, disconnected, and unmanageable digital ecosystem.

.. there was a well-intentioned and healthy tension between effectiveness and responsiveness. A tension we should not shy away from because, as Jim Highsmith framed it many years ago, adaptive leaders understand they must ride the paradox between these two forces.

.. This time, code refactoring wouldn’t save us, what we needed, spoiler alert, was customer-centred, organisational refactoring at scale. And refactoring did occur, in the form of backlash against fragmentation, waste and the following flavour of “agility”, “Why do I need to write a story and wait for a programmer to add some content on the website?”. Why indeed!


.. The darlings of the Gartner Quadrants and Forrester Waves announced that we were now in the Age of Customer Experience

.. they witness velocity killing both agility and their work-life balance.

.. The CIO and the Agile and Lean communities shifted their attention from products to platforms. They refactored architectures to become evolutionary. The epicentre of this mammoth effort was still centred around APIs, technology and operations in service of the business strategy. The focus wasn’t on the customer’s experience.


.. The commoditisation of technology and the digitisation of the world helped us to get closer to the customer; in some cases, with analytics and programmatic, we managed to get too close without ever considering their experience and trust. We managed to get close to the customer without being customer-oriented.

Frankly, it was not that astonishing when the news broke of the 87 million Facebook users affected by Cambridge analytica’s election meddling. Or was it election advertising? For some of us, it was an expected and inevitable outcome.

.. Perhaps, the current crisis in customer trust will finally propel us into a true experience age — Intelligent, personal, relentlessly relevant, connected, dynamic, and consensual experiences. What Prophet describes as living and breathing brand systems with the ability to learn and evolve at scale. The goal has always been to continuously respond to customer needs, right?

.. In Agile management, there is no such thing as an “internal customer.” The only purpose of work is the ultimate customer or end-user. Under the Law of the Customer, the original producers not only meet the needs the internal customers: they are given a clear line of sight as to what value is being provided for the ultimate customer. Satisfying so-called internal customers is merely feeding the bureaucratic beast. It is a pretend-version of Agile.

Act 15. How Do We Get There?

  1. Ask the right (human-centred) questions.
  2. Design Led. Agile Enabled.
  3. Transformational, Visionary Leadership.When companies get where they’re sort of living by so-called making the numbers, they do a lot of things that are really counter to the long-term interest of the business.
    -Warren Buffet

.. Business Agility is the ability to achieve sustained business growth by responding to customer needs. If you are not focused on gaining a deep understanding of your customer and on delivering exceptional experiences, you can’t be responsive, neither can you assure their privacy, security and safety. If you have all that but lack operating model agility you are not a responsive business.

.. Technology must no longer serve the business; the business must no longer serve the business. If we are shifting the focus of the Enterprise from looking inwards to the needs of their customers and hopefully also to the benefit of their ecosystem and society — if we accept that this is the formula for long-lasting Business growth and sustainability — then it’s time to look beyond Agile.

The Winter Getaway That Turned the Software World Upside Down

How a group of programming rebels started a global movemenT

Ken Schwaber—the cofounder of Scrum and founder of—says Waterfall “literally ruined our profession.” “It made it so people were viewed as resources rather than valuable participants.” With so much planning done upfront, employees became a mere cog in the wheel.

.. Waterfall “has gradually lost favor … because companies usually build better products if they can change specifications and designs, get feedback from customers, and continually test components as the products are evolving.”

.. Bob “Uncle Bob” Martin. Martin, an industry veteran and the founder of Uncle Bob Consulting, runs The Clean Code Blog

.. “When we compared how we did our work, we were just kind of astonished at the things that were the same.”“When we compared how we did our work, we were just kind of astonished at the things that were the same.”

.. Unlike other historical documents, the Agile Manifesto doesn’t declare truths self-evident. Rather, it compares: We value this over that.

.. Schwaber says the group did invite “a whole bunch of really pretty knowledgeable women” but that none showed. “They thought it would just be a carousing and smoking weekend,” Schwaber says. “They didn’t think we were going to do anything intellectual or productive.”

.. But it’s unclear whether women were, in fact, actually invited: A few of the framers tell me they vaguely remember some women being invited. Others don’t.

.. Unlike Waterfall, Agile emphasizes iterative development, or building software in pieces. Agile teams typically work in short cycles—which are called “sprints” in Scrum, today one of the most widely used forms of Agile—that usually last two weeks each.

.. Today’s software isn’t typically burned onto a CD-ROM and stocked on a store shelf; updates can be pushed to your laptop or smartphone remotely. This makes it easier to add features or fix bugs after releasing the product.

.. Despite discussions over whether the Manifesto itself should be amended, many of the original signers see the document as a historical—not a living—document. “It’s like a Declaration of Independence in U.S. history,” says Cockburn. “You don’t go back and rewrite that.”

..  “Now you can go to a conference, and there’s aisle after aisle of people who are selling you computer tools to run your process. And they say it’s Agile,” says Cunningham. He points to the first value of the Agile Manifesto. “It says, ‘Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.’ How did [Agile] become a process-and-tools business?”

.. The monetization of Agile aside ..

.. the “most annoying aspect right now” is that Agile “has been taken over by the project-management people,” leaving “the technical people and the technical ideas” behind.

..  Sutherland says he sees teams in Silicon Valley that claim to be Agile, but are “not delivering working product at the end of a short iteration.”


Engineering Integrity vs. Cultural Marxism

How ideas rooted in cultural Marxism have been disastrous for software development.

When engineers under pressure annihilate architectural constraints as a side-effect of hurriedly patching in new features, this is called having ‘high velocity’. Appallingly, such ‘velocity’ is the main measure by which engineering progress is judged. Much in the same way that the Soviet shoe factories produced footwear at a high velocity, it produced shoes that fit no one over the age of 10.

.. when companies go abroad to undercut them even further with cheap labor… Well, it seems a terrific insult to the American people, in my view.

.. The Marxist mindset despises any reliance on exceptional talent, for a reliance on such an uncommon trait would create a dependency which cannot be thoughtlessly cut.

.. take advantage of cheap labor pools to hire as many interchangeable mediocrites as possible. In spite all of reason in evidence, they continue to insist that 9 women can make a baby in one month.

.. when you can’t win an argument with rigor, shut down the debate. This is the worst thing you can in an intellectual endeavor like software engineering. Rigorous debate about the technical merits of our given decisions are ugly, time-consuming, painful… and completely necessary.

.. thanks to cultural Marxism taking over our workplaces, we now work by the credo — “Anything you say can, and will, be used against you in a kangaroo court of HR.”

.. where anyone can choose to be offended by anything and go running off to HR to end you… You learn to keep to yourself, thinking sub-optimal thoughts, and ultimately making technical decisions that could haunt you for a very long time.

.. a couple of snowflakes figures out that they can bully others by anonymously tattling any perceived thought-crimes to HR. Marxist HR policy is that anyone can be accused, but no accuser may ever be identified.

.. engineers need to trust each other

.. if you’re in an environment of social assassination and in a constant state of political maneuver, you’ll never know who you can trust — if anyone at all.

.. The mere experience of realizing that one has made a technically incorrect decision with lasting negative impact is a brutal enough. To be told this by an apparently crusading asshole like myself, unforgivable.

.. the uncommon genius and mathematical talent associated with functional programming does violence to the Marxist ideal of human interchangeability.

.. When Marxist leadership needs a 10x engineer, it just hires 10 engineers. Often on visa.

.. in order for cultural Marxism to express its intolerance of white men in tech, it must invent a fiction of overwhelming misogyny and racism in tech.

Death of a Scrum Room

The thing was, ‘The Business’ weren’t sure about agile, and the scrum master had regular fights to run things that way. The problems were textbook:

  • Resistance to addition of work mid-sprint
  • Lack of oversight – is dev X really taking this long to finish story Y? How do we know it’s not already finished, and now they’re just playing Minesweeper?
  • Lack of ‘precise’ answers to questions like “On exactly what date will this massive new piece of work be delivered?”

So a little under a year ago, they parted ways with the scrum master. People began filtering into the room to talk to devs about their work. Devs were called into meetings to discuss when and how they were going to fix issues they were in the middle fixing. Refactoring started to be second-guessed by non-devs, and was eventually banned. Two months went by with enforced overtime.

.. Well-run agile teams can produce great results, but even now – 15 years after the Agile Manifesto – it’s often viewed with suspicion. If you like agile practice you can make efforts to sell it, but people hate change, and you have to know when to move on. Some devs like regimented, waterfall environments, so if those environments and devs find each other, everyone’s happy. You spend too much time at work to stay somewhere if you’re not enjoying it.