Robert Melton's Writings

Modern Agile Bullshit #3: The Responsiveness Myth

Oh, the irony! The Agile Manifesto proclaims “responding to change over following a plan,” but modern Agile practices have turned that principle into a sick joke. Case in point: the almighty fixed-length sprint.

You see, sprints were supposed to be this magical tool that created focus and cadence for teams. A way to establish a steady rhythm of delivering value. But somewhere along the way, they mutated into these rigid, inflexible commitments that teams cling to like a drowning man to a life raft, even when the ship is sinking around them.

Picture this: your team is halfway through a sprint, diligently working on a bunch of lower-priority items that seemed important two weeks ago. Suddenly, a high-priority bug or opportunity comes along that could deliver huge value to your customers. But do you pivot and address it? Hell no! That would disrupt the sacred sprint plan! So you keep plodding along, completing work that no longer matters while the truly important stuff sits on the backburner.

And heaven forbid a critical production issue rears its ugly head mid-sprint. You’d think the team would drop everything to fix it, right? Wrong! In the twisted world of modern Agile, the sprint plan is king. Bugs and issues get triaged and deferred, leaving your users to suffer while the team slavishly follows a plan that’s no longer relevant.

But it gets worse. Teams become so terrified of not delivering on their sprint commitments that they become risk-averse to the point of paralysis. They’re like deer caught in the headlights, afraid to take on any changes or new work mid-sprint, even if it’s the right thing to do. The sprint backlog becomes this immutable tablet of stone, carved in the fires of Mount Doom, never to be altered by mere mortals.

This is the opposite of agility! Agile should be about empowering teams to adapt and adjust as they learn and as conditions change. Sprints and backlogs should provide just enough structure to keep everyone aligned and focused, not create a straitjacket of rules that teams blindly follow off a cliff.

It’s time to bring the “agile” back to Agile. The focus should be on delivering maximum value and quickly responding to change, not on hitting arbitrary sprint commitments. The best teams are the ones that constantly reassess their priorities based on new information and changing circumstances. They’re driven by achieving great outcomes for their customers and their business, not by gaming JIRA metrics.

So let’s call out this responsiveness myth for what it is: modern Agile bullshit. It’s time to break free from the tyranny of inflexible sprints and dogmatic adherence to outdated plans. Let’s create a new kind of Agile, one that truly embraces change and empowers teams to do what’s best for their users and their organizations.

Because at the end of the day, agility isn’t about following a process or a set of rules. It’s about having the courage and the common sense to do what’s right, even if it means deviating from the plan. That’s the kind of Agile that truly delivers value, and that’s the kind of Agile we should all be striving for.