Declare ‘victory’ and move on

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January 25, 2021

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‘Declare “victory” and move on’ is a pragmatic way to frame the closing of a long running project where the vision/ambition was ground-breaking but with the passage of time it has become clear that the project has become bogged down, it will not deliver the vision and so people want as positive way as possible to close it down and focus on something new.

With the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Agile Manifesto coming up on 13th February, I can’t shake the feeling that this is the time for the Agile movement to “declare victory and move on”.  

To my mind the Agile movement hasn’t and isn’t going to achieve the vision/ambition it has adopted, has become bogged down and has become increasingly hypocritical.  My case for this is:

  • In common with many long lasting change programmes, we have had massive scope creep.   The Agile manifesto was focussed on “better ways of developing software”; we are now trying to re-engineer all organisations through “Business Agility” using the assumption that all businesses are technology businesses and the over-simplification that software development has all the answers.  
  • Agile values and culture are being increasingly politicised.  While this may be a reflection on the noise generated in social media echo chambers more generally, the direction of travel seems to be heading towards a viewpoint that Agile is a progressive concept, raising barriers to adoption.  
  • The industrial complexes that have built up around Scrum and SAFe training/consulting indicate we value “processes and tools” more than “individuals and interactions”.  The toxicity of some of the interactions in the “framework wars” has put lots of people off and again creates unnecessary barriers to adoption.

I could go on about other ways that we, as a movement, are undermining the manifesto.

However the key thing is to focus on the positives and here I think we can legitimately “declare victory”.

We have achieved the original mission “better ways of delivering software”.  

  • The vast majority of software development is now done using Agile techniques.  
  • Young people are being taught Agile methods at school, apprenticeship and university.

As to who the victors are I think it is clear that eXtreme Programming is the primary winner given that its practices such as continuous integration, refactoring, pair programming and test first are central to all other Agile software deliveries.  The majority of the other methodologies / frameworks incorporate XP concepts.  

It’s more difficult when calling out people, because of those that inevitably get left out while making important contributions, but the originators/early adopters of XP, Kent Beck, Ward Cunningham, Ron Jeffries and Martin Fowler have been unequivocally proved right.  It’s also worth calling out Jez Humble for Continuous Delivery and Dan North for Behaviour Driven Development, concepts developed out of XP which have become integral to modern software development.

I’m crystallising my thoughts about “what next” and will get these out over the next few weeks.