Two Legs Good
At the end of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, the pigs who were the leaders of the revolution partied with human farmers and wrote “Two legs good” on the farm barn wall. They wrote over “Two legs bad, four legs good” which had been their slogan when they led the other farm yard animals in revolution against the farmer who ran the farm before them.
Two weeks ago at the Agile2013 conference in Nashville I felt compelled to write “Two legs good” in bright red paint around the venue. I did not of course but felt that we should mark the end of the Agile Experiment and a return to status quo.
Two legs bad, Four legs good
The Agile Revolution was a reaction to the prevailing approach to telling people how to develop software. The manifesto was clear “We will continue to develop better ways of delivering software by DOING IT and helping others DO IT. The manifesto was followed by a status report “so far, we have come to value…”
The Agile Manifesto could be rewritten “Theory only bad. Practice supported by Theory good.”
The Agile Manifesto was a call to arms. No longer would we develop software based on some theory developed in University or IBM labs. We would apply an empirical (experiential learning) approach. Practitioners working on real world projects would share their experiences. The Agile Community would then test them out and refine them. Then and only then would they be promoted commercially. Version One and Rally established themselves as software vendors who provided tools to support the Agile Practices rather than promote new practices to sell their tools.
This did not mean that the Agile Community ditched theory and ideas. I used theory to develop and hone my own practices. When I was sure that the practices worked, I shared them. I did not promote my theory untested in the real world.
Two legs good
Two weeks ago I walked around the vendor booths at Agile2013 and I was disgusted. The farmers were back. There were several booths promoting SAFE, a framework for scaling Agile. I know nothing about the details of SAFE other than the following:
The only people who really knew anything about it were selling it either as trainers or consultants.
I did not encounter a single person who had successfully implemented SAFE.
There are few if any case studies of corporations implementing SAFE.
SAFE is meant to be an enterprise wide framework. These frameworks can take years to implement and even longer to assess whether they are successful. The Agile Community is now in the grips of a SAFE selling frenzy.
If I were a manager attending Agile2013 who did not know too much about Agile, I would be under the impression that SAFE was safe. After all, there were three or four vendors promoting it. I would take it home to my enterprise unaware that I was testing yet another theory on how to develop software.
Please take a minute or two and reflect in silence. Think back just a few years to when that Agile learning machine had produced practices that had been tested first. Now pay your respects as we lament the death of Agile.
Someone just shot the Agile brand in the back of the head, but at least the Agile Alliance got to charge them for doing it.
“Two legs good”. Paint it big. Paint it red.