10 Years of Agile

This content is syndicated from VersionOne by VersionOne. To view the original post in full, click here.

Alistair Cockburn has been organizing a 10 Years of the Agile Manifesto event in Snowbird this coming weekend. ten years of agile development

A majority of the discussion is anticipated to revolve around three questions:

  1. What problems in software or product development have we solved (and therefore should not simply keep re-solving)?
  2. What problems are fundamentally unsolvable (so therefore we should not keep trying to “solve” them)?
  3. What problems can we sensibly address – problems that we can mitigate either with money, effort or innovation? (and therefore, these are the problems we should set our attention to, next.)

Here are my thoughts on this topic.

I think we’ve solved many of the more micro mechanics of agile software development (on paper anyway). The challenge remains in regards to application.    

In regards to question number 3, I think we need to start having more of a systems thinking perspective to scaling agile development.  The issues in this area are usually not related to process and tools of the agile space itself but rather human, organizational and change dynamics in the application of agile.

The agile community needs to evolve people who think beyond the current application of  the basic tenets of the Agile Manifesto and apply them and additional thinking to the challenge of agile at scale, IOW, Agile in the Real World.  For instance, perhaps applying a change framework such as the one presented in the Heath Brothers’ book "Switch" to the problem of scaling agile.  I have written before about coming up with a framework that purports “using agile to scale agile”

Agile coaches, for instance, should be able to not only instruct and coach teams on agile practices, but also coach on crafting change programs based on situations that exist in specific organizations.  This requires longer-term relationships and interaction with clients.

One of the more disturbing trends I see with the rise of things like Kanban is that organizations expect a silver bullet with their agile initiative, and when that doesn’t work, they run to what they think the next silver bullet will be.  Don’t get me wrong, I find KanbanSilver Bullet and its premises very useful, however, not exclusive of other agile practices.   We need to get organizations that are moving to agile project management to expect some failure and also help them learn what continuous process improvement is.  For some reason folks don’t seem to realize that this is a team skill like anything else, you don’t do it well just because you allocated time for a retrospective.

In this same vein of systems thinking, the agile community originally did a poor job factoring in how to integrate existing PMOs, legacy project management and governance systems into agile change initiatives, even agile pilots.  It was foolish to not have a well thought out plan for how to make allies out of those that would turn out to be one of your most significant "enemies"…look to Sun Tzu, "The Art of War".  Perhaps now enough has been learned by failure and some success to provide patterns that can be leveraged to help ally such groups early on.

Whether these problems will be seen as sensible or unsolvable I’m not sure, but IMO they are the ones that will impede the success of agile in the real world. If they are seen as unsolvable then we risk seeing limited application of agile in organizations, and by limited I mean both within the IT side and beyond.  Agile thinking can be extended well beyond developing software.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seventeen + one =

There are 101 ways to do anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”


“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”


“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”


“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”


“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”


“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”


“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”


“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”


“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”


“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”


“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”



To explore how we can help you, please get in touch