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The Most Influential People in Agile

| by Craig Smith Follow 6 Followers on Apr 18, 2012. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

A recent post by Paul Dolman-Darrall on the Value, Flow, Quality blog proposed a list of the 20 most influential people in the Agile community.

The final list took into account a number of factors:

We have used a combination of statistics from a number of different sites, Amazon Book Sales (US, UK & EU), the top 200 Agile blogs, Google insight and trend information, Klout data, Twitter numbers and rankings, the top 100 Agile books (which measures reader's scores), and combined that with a final editorial decision.

The top 20 people on the list are:

  1. Mike Cohn
  2. Ken Schwaber
  3. Robert (Uncle Bob) Martin
  4. Martin Fowler
  5. David J. Anderson
  6. Jurgen Appelo
  7. Ron Jeffries
  8. Craig Larman
  9. Jeff Sutherland
  10. Kent Beck
  11. Mary Poppendieck
  12. Scott Ambler
  13. Esther Derby
  14. Alistair Cockburn
  15. Roman Pichler
  16. Jim Highsmith
  17. Israel Gat
  18. Lyssa Adkins
  19. James Shore
  20. Henrik Kniberg

Not surprisingly, every person in the list has published one or many books, and all of them (with the exception of Jeff Sutherland) appeared in Top 100 Agile books (Edition 2011) published by Jurgen Appelo. The same goes for blogs with most of this list (with the exception of Jim Highsmith, Scott Ambler, Kent Beck and Craig Larman) appearing on the Top 200 Agile Blogs list published in 2011 on the Agile Scout blog.

For Craig Larman, being included on the list appeared to be a surprise, as he stated on the front page of his site:

Without trying (don't blog or twitter on the subject) made #8 on "the top 20 most influential agile people". thanks!

Roman Pichler expressed his excitement on Google Plus:

I am really chuffed to be named as one of the 20 most influential agile people.

Commenting on the list, Erik Petersen suggested that the Gordon Pask Award should have been considered as an extra data source:

Of the 15 people awarded, only Jim Shore makes your list. I'd say that shows a downside to your data collection method. I'm not saying they should be in the top 20, it should be a criteria in your ranking.  I've personally found sometimes there is an inverse relationship between number of books published and actual influence, just saying.....

There was also some discussion on those who perhaps should have made the list. Yves Hanoulle commented that other people like Naresh Jain, Jean Tabaka, Jerry Weinberg, Lisa Crispin, Johanna Rothman and Eric Ries, amongst others, have made a considerable influence on the community.

There were 500 names considered in the process of making the list, according to Paul Dolman-Darrall. These lists always elicit discussion, so are there any influential people in the Agile community that you think should have ranked in the top 20? 

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Paul Dolman-Darrall Speaks by Paul Dolman-Darrall

In the full list there were many of the recognised names. Many of those being named would have been in the list if it had been top 20-40. I do believe there are some incredible practitioners who have incredible influence, but probably did not score well due to a lower public profile.

Most of the statistics used relied on public profile, book sales, twitter followers, blogs, quality of book, but we also provided quite heavy weighting to web search statistics (mainly because they might pick up on people who did not write books and typically people have some web profile).

Simply put, it seems books are still a path to influence. Since web search statistics often also covered mainly people who wrote books.

I would definitely be interested in who else should have been in the list, but also the extra criteria that could be used. I would be happy to review the criteria in the future as long as its available from public sources. I would note, winning a Golden Pask award was included in the data as a notable achievement (this was part of the editorial scoring).

Has anyone heard of Ward Cunningham? by Chris Matts

I cannot help but feel that this list is as much about popularity as influence.

Some of the list such as Mary Poppendieck, Alistair Cockburn, Kent Beck, Martin Fowler and Ron Jeffries had a massive influence on the way I do my work. Others less so for me but probably for others.

Some other influences missing of the list are Ward Cunningham, Todd Little (who has been the driving force behind Agile20xx), Luke Hohmann (who is changing the world), Diana Larson and Rachel Davies for their work on the Agile Alliance, Linda Rising for introducing Retrospectives (to me at least), Richard Watt for starting the whole Acceptance Test Driven Stuff. Tim McKinnon/Steve Freeman/Nat Pryce for Mock Objects. All these and many more had a big influence on me. Its a little sad they are not more famous.

I really love the work Laurent Bossavit has done on the Agile time line to recognise the influencers.

A nice piece of work by Paul. It got a conversation going.

Re: Has anyone heard of Ward Cunningham? by Paul Dolman-Darrall

Definitely agree. It may be the case popular is a better word than influence.

Is this really a good idea? by Mark Levison

If anything it just enshrines the influence of people who were already well known. I think that's the last thing we need. The Agile community should be democratic in its nature, open to good ideas no matter what their source. In addition we should be just as critical of well known people. When I finish my CSM courses I invite my students to sample widely from other sources of ideas, not just mine.

Paul - please don't take this as a personal jab, I like many of ideas but this one (like Jurgen and Paul's lists) just seems profoundly wrong. I would have much happier if you posted a list of 100 voices we should hear more from. A list from your heart and not by the numbers.

Mark Levison
Certified Scrum Trainer | Agile Pain Relief Consulting

Re: Is this really a good idea? by Paul Dolman-Darrall

No problems. I avoided a list from the heart, because it tends to get more criticism. It's a lighthearted blog, obviously I am not on the list, but try to share my own ideas.

Re: Is this really a good idea? by Mark Levison

Paul - I hear that you intended it to be lighthearted. Unfortunately the law of unintended consequences has kicked in and people are taking it seriously.

BTW I still the world would be well served by a list of voices that don't get enough attention. I.E. strike off all the well known people and instead look for people like: Liz Keogh, Dan North, Karl Scotland, Eric Willeke, Erik Petersen, ...

Mark Levison

Books, Certifications, Blogs or Code and Products? by Rodrigo Yoshima

It's a little bit weird that I can't find high quality code and products authored by many of the guys in this list. Right?

Why in the hell Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, authors, bloggers, developers and successful product owners are not in this list? Are you insane?

Re: Books, Certifications, Blogs or Code and Products? by Paul Dolman-Darrall

I know where you are coming from Rodrigo, both those guys were on the longer list. But the list was just built from the data that I looked for. Ward Cunningham I think is a definite miss if you asked me. He came 22nd in the data and probably should have been higher.

Hero Culture is alive and well by Tobias Mayer

...and living in AgileLand.
Is this really where we want to go? Again?
Insanity: making the same mistakes and expecting different results.

Re: Hero Culture is alive and well by Paul Dolman-Darrall

The blog commented on hero culture being alive and well, I would prefer not to see it. It is slightly ironic that the Agile community is so pro team, and yet drives a cult of personality.

Looking for 100 Voices we should hear more from in Agile by Mark Levison

In response to this list I'm looking to create a list of voices we need to hear more from. Please read: "100 Agile Voices we should hear more from" and contribute suggestions.

Thanks for getting me to do this.

Mark Levison

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