Looking Back at Looking Ahead, Gloom for Agile in 2012?

| by David Bulkin Follow 0 Followers on Apr 23, 2012. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

Agile Gloom 2012Many predictions for Agile in 2012 were gloomy, with themes including adoptions by organizations that are inadaquately prepared for agile, resulting in an inability to address management impact across teams and engineering practices in teams. Although the blogs quoted also included positive predictions the focus of this article is on the cautionary aspect of the predictions. With nearly four months of hindsight, readers can make their own judgments, while being cognizant of what to "not do", so that 2012 won’t be a gloomy year for agile.

On the Cutter Consortium Blog, Gil Broza indicates that he had a hard time coming up with 2012 predictions, but what he finally wrote points to organizations inability to understand the why and how of agile, with one example being a lack of investment in preventing technical debt.

I predict that many organizations worldwide will continue to adopt Agile. Most of them will do so with no expert guidance, with ho-hum results, and with little understanding of why they got those results. People will continue to get their Agile skills certified while others rail against the value and implication of those certificates. Companies will still rely on head hunters to hire Agile coaches, and wonder why those coaches can't seem to straighten out their Agile implementation. Organizations will continue to agonize over micro-estimation of detailed backlogs. They will continue to spend a pretty penny on "adding bodies" to projects riddled with technical debt, while not investing in the skills and habits their developers need to reduce or avoid increasing such debt. Managers will continue to use language like "We just hired a resource in development" without investing proper attention in the hired person. And downsizings will continue until morale improves.

Also on the Cutter Blog, Mark Levison predicts that many companies will continue half-hearted agile adoptions due to a continuation of command and control leadership and an inability to make the larger organizational changes required for successful agile implementations.

Many companies will adopt Scrum or Kanban and see few of the benefits. In many cases these are adoptions that don't gain real support -- only lip service. In some cases, the organizations start Scrum but continue to use Command and Control Leadership. In other cases, Scrum reveals organizational impediments about which but people say, "That will be too difficult to change here". Real performance improvement comes from a deep understanding of how Agile works and committing to change, not from lip service Agile.

Over at the Accurev site Lorne Cooper predicts that everyone will claim they are agile, but that 50% of them will be wrong, and half of the rest won’t get any value from it. He explains that there are a lot of bad development practices and that organizations have too few people, with too little coaching, and hardly any tooling.

There are a lot, and here I really need to underline a lot, of bad development practices out there. For every organization that is killing it with Agile, there are five (my agilesta friends say ten) organizations that are limping along, delivering buggy code to their customers, late, and missing committed functionality. And often all three. This “Going Agile Without Knowing How” problem is probably an inevitable result of the success the early-adopter teams had with Agile methods. For instance, when I watch The Olympics, figure skaters make skating look effortless. When I do it, I look like a drunken hippo and hurt my butt. It’s hard to stop and remember that these athletes, in addition to good genetics, spent years at the rink with their coaches learning, trying, failing, and improving, before they got in front of the TV cameras. Agile has crossed the chasm, and the great majority of organizations have too few people, with too little coaching, and hardly any tooling. Sure, your boss doesn’t realize how useless your stand-up meetings are, or that your code isn’t fully tested at the end of a sprint, but she’ll eventually see that your customers are not happy.

Although this article quoted quoted in this article are pessimistic, they are only a sampling of projections for 2012 and beyond. We are interested in what you have actually experienced and seen over the last four months with agile; gloomy or successful.

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Reading my prediction by Gil Broza

I forgot I made that prediction four months ago. Thanks for bringing it up, David! (It is an interesting experience to go back and re-read something I said publicly. I will probably feel the same about the book I'm writing...)

So far I'm seeing evidence of this prediction materializing -- but I still hope to be wrong.


Re: Reading my prediction by Brad Murphy

No gloom here... clients need and want to build the right thing and build it more effectively. The trap the corporate leaders have fallen into (quite predictably) is what I call "check box thinking"... We need to be more Agile, let's buy some of that this year... "Check". This pattern has played out so many times over the last 30 years it's amazing to me how few companies recognize it. For those of us who have been successful helping clients focus on what matters most (hint, becoming Agile is NOT the goal), 2012 will be a year full of opportunity... for those selling "Agile"... good luck. That train has already left the station...

Brad Murphy, Founder/CEO
Gear Stream
BradAMurphy <-- follow me on twitter

Re: Reading my prediction by David Bulkin


I highlighted negative predictions like yours as a cautionary tale. Ideally speaking, alerting people to potential mistakes, prevents those mistakes from ever happening! So, if you did a good job, your prediction will be false.

Re: Reading my prediction by David Bulkin


Your response is interesting, as it highlights both the good and bad. My question is, will the benefits derived from those who apply true agile principles outweigh the negative experiences of those that apply "check box" agile?

David Bulkin

Agile Is a development thing right? by Chris Goldsbury

Good article. What many of these writers discuss is what I call the "Agile is a development thing right?" syndrome.

Gloom? by Mark Levison

Thanks for highlighting the prediction. I'm not sure its all gloom. We're starting to see some of what Geoffrey Moore would call the "Late Majority" they don't want to change. What changes they make they because there is competitive pressure. In the long run they will either really change or be beaten. In the long run there will be more truly agile companies its just a question if they're old companies that adapt or new companies.

Mark Levison
Certified Scrum Trainer | Agile Pain Relief Consulting

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