Agile issues

“The most successful thing about Agile is the word Agile,” says Robert C. Martin (aka Uncle Bob) in a podcast from October 2019. “The original concepts almost instantly started to get muddied, and lost, and twisted and turned…”

Uncle Bob was in the group of seventeen men who put together — at a Utah ski resort, early in 2001 — the Agile manifesto. And he’s among the early proponents of Agile who are trying to set the record straight. In the podcast he talks about how project managers, not engineers, took over the Agile movement:

The Agile conferences went from being technical conferences to being management conferences, almost overnight. And literally, that didn’t change. That has been the theme ever since. Agile has become a “soft skills, people management” kind of thing… 

In a recent interview Mary and Tom Poppendieck bring this up and question Agile’s relevance today:

“Way too much of agile has been not about technology, but about people and about managing things and about getting stuff done — not necessarily getting the right stuff done, but getting stuff done — rather than what engineering is about,” she said. “Agile has come to mean anything but the fundamental, underlying technical capability necessary to do really good software engineering.”

One of the less discussed consequences of this focus away from engineering is the way it impacts the role of women in the industry. Here’s Mary, in the same article:

“If you look at agile, where do women end up? They end up being scrum masters and that kind of thing. That’s not an engineering job. That’s putting women ‘in a woman’s place,’ rather than putting women in an engineering job. And I think that’s really bad,” she said.