Modern Agile Lie #3: Responsive

The Agile Manifesto values “responding to change over following a plan.” But modern Agile practices like fixed-length sprints end up locking teams into mini-waterfalls, hurting responsiveness.

Sprints were meant to create cadence and focus for teams. But over time they have morphed into rigid commitments that cannot be changed, even if circumstances or information changes. Teams stick to their sprint plan even when it no longer makes sense.

This false consistency hurts responsiveness in several ways:

  • Teams continue working on lower priority items in the current sprint rather than switching gears to higher value work that comes up.

  • Bugs and production issues can’t be fixed without disrupting the sprint plan, so they get deferred.

  • There is fear of under-delivering on sprint commitments, so teams hesitate to take on changes mid-sprint.

  • The sprint backlog calcifies into unchangeable dogma instead of adaptable guidance.

Agile should empower teams to dynamically adjust as they learn and conditions evolve. Sprints and backlogs are supposed to provide just enough structure to focus efforts, not create strict rules that override common sense.

Let’s restore agility back into Agile. Focus should be on delivering maximum value and quickly responding to changes, not blindly following sprint commitments. The best teams regularly re-evaluate priorities instead of chasing arbitrary consistency. They are driven by great outcomes, not great JIRA velocity.

See also