Agile Is Not Dead

Agile Is Not Dead (But Some Organizations Might Be Soon)

Would you believe me when I wrote, “Fitness is Dead”?

What if I wrote, “The Corruption of Fitness” or “Why Fitness Has Failed”? Would that make sense to you?

Physical fitness is a state of well-being and the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupations. It is generally achieved through correct nutrition, exercise, hygiene, and rest. Fitness is considered a measure of the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist diseases, and to meet emergency situations. (Adapted from: Wikipedia)

In my opinion, agility is to the business what fitness is to the human body.

Let’s re-phrase the Wikipedia description:

Organizational agility is a state of well-being and the ability to perform aspects of competition and collaboration. It is generally achieved through good practices, purpose, and values. Agility is considered a measure of the organization’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work activities, to be healthy, to resist dysfunctional behaviors, and to meet emergency situations.

Historically, within the context of software development, the word Agile is used to refer to concepts such as “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “Responding to change over following a plan”, among others. For me, “responding to change” has roughly the same meaning as “ability to perform”. We can discuss for hours what the creators of the Agile manifesto meant exactly, but I don’t find that very interesting.

Fact is, most teams are doing Scrum wrong; plenty of people misapply Kanban; and most organizations have no idea how to introduce Management 3.0 practices. But that’s nothing new. Most people are doing yoga wrong; plenty of people misapply workout exercises; and most have no idea how to develop a good running form. Not understanding how to become healthy is part of being human. That doesn’t mean we can discard fitness as “dead”. The concept of fitness (yoga, workouts, running, swimming, etc.) is fine. It’s human beings not applying healthy practices who might soon be dead.

With Agile it’s the same. I’m not very interested in articles such as “Agile is Dead“, “The Corruption of Agile” or “Why Agile Has Failed“. Sure, you can replace Agile with agility, but changing the use of one word is not going to address a fundamental problem in organizations. The concept of agility is fine. Agile is not dead. But organizations misapplying good agile practices might be very soon.

image: (c) 2009 Jo Naylor, Creative Commons 2.0


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  • Luis Goncalves

    Great Article Jurgen. Congrats 🙂 I loved the comparison that you did, I indeed see all these articles on a weekly basis but you nailed down quite nicely 🙂 Thanks Luis

  • Riccardo Bua

    It’s the power of disruption multiplied by a X factor, to use your analogy you’ll have soon Fitness 2.0 with wearable fit gadgets and apps helping most of those people that got it wrong and telling them how many cals they consumed with last jog, similarly you’ll end up having tools built to tell you how to become agile and assist even if you got some practices wrong and new companies will appear to take over the ones gone…… circularity… just finished reading this one: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/06/23/140623fa_fact_lepore?currentPage=1 and it got me thinking a lot!

  • Alberto Brandolini

    I like the implicit comparison. Now in my head I see fat companies eating junk food while watching TV, with a dirty T-shirt saying: “I tried running and didn’t work”.

  • Jayson Read

    Great post! One corollary you can add in your comparison to fitness is that the point is doing something, especially if you’re just starting out. Many would say that even if you’re not doing yoga the correct way or you don’t have the correct running form at first, the point is that you’re doing it. Fine tuning to get the most out of your workout will come along as you progress but the first step is to take the first step.

  • christianfalck

    Great comparison! When exercising, you quickly notice some of the advantages: you feel better, stronger and it becomes natural to keep going. Is there a similar quick benefit when working agile that instinctively tells the organization to keep at it? What’s your experiences?

    • jurgenappelo

      I would think: speed and flexibility

  • Daniela

    I loved the comparison and I agree, the problem is not the concept, it’s definitely people and organizations who don’t apply it in the correct way. I don’t have experience working in Agile teams, but I am taking a class about it where we learned that you have to DO Agile as well as BE Agile. My guess is that many times the “being” Agile is where many companies fail because creating the culture and changing mindsets it’s probably the hardest. From your experience though, what do you think are some of the most common mistakes companies make when trying to implement Agile practices?

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