Agile Isn't Dead, But Your Career Might Be

All over LinkedIn, my feed is full of people saying Agile is dead or that Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches aren’t needed. I understand both the sentiment and the clickbait nature of this kind of headlines. Though if it were clickbait, people would say the opposite of their title in what they write, but they don’t. They continue to write that agile failed, and these roles and frameworks failed, too.

While this is a common experience and sentiment, I want to ask you to hang on a second.

Statements like Agile is dead or these roles and frameworks are bad are like saying cooking is dead and reverse expeditors are bad.

Now, I do think the software industry and managers are tired of the pageantry and rhetoric around these topics. Many managers coming into their roles have spent their whole career getting verbally clubbed by folks on how they must do agile. They’ve grit their teeth and complied for years.

But what do they have to show for it?

The problem is that most of these “Agilists” with flashy powerpoints and trainings, and cute sayings about how to do and be agile are very narrowly focused. Success only exists on their terms, and not on the terms of its victims or the teams or businesses around it.

Have you ever seen an agile maturity model? There you go.

So you get blessed that you’re agile, so what? Did things get better or easier? Do you have the means to work across groups, inspect and adapt, and are you able to work openly and transparently? Probably not. You probably have the version of this where if you squint your eyes and try to see way off in the distance, you can make out some shapes of the ghosts of these things, but they’re not here.

Our industry is full of people who lean on their certifications and workshops. It’s full of project managers who struggled before Agile ate the world and struggle today. It’s full of people who, at their core, believe that if everyone just complied, the world would be better.

These people are losing their jobs. Everyone is tired of these folks.

This brings me back to the original statement about agility being dead— it isn’t. Agility can’t die, but we can remove the people around us making a mess of things. At its core, agility is rooted in common sense—the kind of common sense you find if you haven’t spent a long time in corporate America. Working together, talking together, creating a working product, looking at what’s going on and improving it. Easy stuff.

In my time in this space, I’ve been very intentional about not being someone who beats people over the head with this stuff. I focus on improving teams, teams working better, and achieving better results. I use a lot of agile thinking and techniques to do it.

I also use non-agile techniques. Breathe, you’ll live.

I work with leadership to understand what is important now and how it’s being communicated and measured. I connect my work to what is valuable and show the results. There are no agile maturity models, certifications, or rubber stamps of “You’re agile.”

This connection to something valuable is what so many of the people in our industry don’t do, and it’s why their careers are at risk. They cannot show value.

So, if this is you, take my words to heart. Sit down with folks, find out what is important, and demonstrate your ability to make a difference on those terms.

If you’re a leader, I encourage you to make these valuable things visible and show them how to move in that direction. With the right help, you’ll see movement like never before.

For those of you who don’t take these words to heart, you’ll be left behind very soon.