Agile software development burst onto the scene in 2001 as an antidote to heavily process-driven and documentation-heavy approaches like waterfall. Early Agile proponents promoted values like individuals over process, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan.
20 years later, Agile has become a parody of its original goals. Rigid frameworks like SAFe and dogmatic adherence to practices like daily standup meetings and sprint planning have replaced Agile’s initial flexibility and focus on individuals. Process and tools now reign supreme over practical solutions.
Why does this flawed version of Agile persist? I believe a major reason is that software productivity has rapidly improved over time. Studies suggest software development productivity doubles every 3 years - so a task that took 6 months in 2001 now takes just 1 month.
This rapid improvement masks the inefficiencies of modern Agile. Even with bad processes, we can deliver more. And an entire industry of coaches, trainers, and consultants now relies on the Agile industrial complex. Questioning Agile orthodoxy threatens many careers and livelihoods.
In future posts, I will do a “Mike Acton style” debunking of specific Agile myths, like the importance of story points for estimation or the need for daily standup meetings. I will also highlight better approaches like Feature Driven Development that emphasize working software over process.
While Agile helped make software development more collaborative and iterative, modern Agile has become a rigid religion. We must go back to Agile’s empirical roots and focus on what actually allows teams to build great software, not what protects the status quo. The future of software is too important to let ineffective practices persist.