Is agile dead? What should we focus on in 2020?

Happy New Year

AUTHOR: Malene Marie Bendixen Jacobsen, Agile Coach

Happy New Year and welcome to 2020!

2020! Wow, time flies. How was your 2019? Was it hard? Successful? Challenging? Take a moment to think about it. What word would describe your 2019?

Maybe you are sitting with a thought of why should I look back? 2020 is already here and I am ready for it, let’s get going…

With the agile mindset of inspecting and adapting, it is crucial to inspect the past to be able to adapt to the future. But hey Malene, what about all those who say agile is dead? We do not need the agile mindset anymore, it is old news…?

Well, I want to use this moment to look back because I also got a lot of these articles sent to me last year – AGILE IS DEAD! Or a client asking me, “What comes after agile? Is agile not overrated? Is Agile not long gone?”… But is it?

In my 2019 I was fascinated with these questions because it was so against my beliefs, but I heard that more and more people were talking about it so I used quite some time trying to understand the different views and opinions.

My thoughts and ideas on this subject truly kicked off at last year’s Agile Coach Camp ZA, where we discussed the topic: “Scrum Master helpful or hurtful?” We had interesting chats which I have also mentioned in a previous blog post.

This topic had my interest, so when I attended the Global Scrum Gathering in Austin I brought it up in the Open Space to see the view from a US perspective and if it would be the same as the one we have in Africa? I did the same at the Global Scrum Gathering in Vienna. It was very fascinating to see how the conclusion was the same all around the world. From Africa to the US ending with Europe.

For each session, the chat quickly focused around when a Scrum Master is hurtful and why? The same reasons stood out all over, and can be simplified to Scrum Masters can be hurtful when they do not have the right skill set to perform the job. The pattern that is seen worldwide is that this often happens when an existing role is combined with the Scrum Master role and therefore the Scrum Master role is not being given the right attention. This creates a misunderstanding of the Scrum Master role and companies start to wonder if a Scrum Master is even necessary? Well frankly, no, they are not necessary if they do not perform the job that it was intended to be, and you will of course not see the benefits.

But what does a Scrum Master have to do with agile being dead? It is the same patterns we see where agile is not succeeding because of:

  • Misunderstood roles such as Project Managers become Scrum Master but still need to fulfill the responsibilities of a Project Manager. Business Analyst becoming Product Owner but they do not have any authority, which a Product Owner should.
  • Developers need to be agile but do not get any training on how to change their way of working, they are suddenly just surrounded by Scrum Masters and Products owners and a leader saying we are agile!
  • Managers and leaders do not accept that they have to change and that the organisation needs to change.

The list of bad patterns is endless…

So why is agile dying? Because people are fed up with agile that doesn’t work, and therefore they blame agile and think that there must be something else… So no, it is not agile that is dying, it is agile done badly that needs to die!

So what should we focus on in 2020? To get the right mindset back to what it means to be agile. Agile is not a simple thing and all changes are difficult. Stop blaming agile for something you or your company struggles with. To be truly agile your organization has to change! We now see companies that start to understand this and that is why Business Agility is the new big thing – and yes once again a fancy buzzword, but let’s not hate it because of that! Business Agility focuses on how a whole organization can become agile and this will be a big focus for 2020. To change our organization to fit into a constantly changing world where no days look like the rest and where your employees want purpose and fulfillment in their work.

Welcome to 2020 and let’s start to change the organization’s structure to fit the new way we work. The future is now!