I recently responded to a post with the question: “What are the key attributes of post-agile development? What problems of traditional agile does it try to solve?” I think people are looking for a new “silver bullet”
What is Post-Agile Development?
I don’t really believe that there is such a thing as “post-Agile development”. That implies that Agile will become obsolete and something really different will replace it. However, I do believe that the use of Agile methodologies will continue to evolve and mature.
Trends in Agile Development and Agile Project Management
Some of the trends that are evident to me are:
- Traditional plan-driven project management is beginning to converge with Agile. Agile started out as a revolution against traditional plan-driven project management practices (what many people loosely call “Waterfall”) and that pendulum is starting to swing back to the middle. People are beginning to recognize that there isn’t really a binary and mutually-exclusive choice between “Agile” and “Waterfall” as many people seem to think. Rather than force-fitting a project to one of those extremes, a better solution is to fit the methodology to the nature of the problem which may require a blend of both approaches in the right proportions to fit the situation.
- Learning how to blend those approaches together requires understanding a broader range of methodologies (both plan-driven and Agile) and understanding them at a deeper level.Many people today do Agile somewhat mechanically “by the book” without really understanding the principles behind it. That results in a somewhat rigid approach to how to apply Agile which is exactly the opposite of the adaptive approach that is intended for Agile.
- A very big trend is that many companies and people are attempting to scaleAgile to larger and more complex, enterprise-level projects and that will accelerate both of the above trends.Agile was originally designed around small, simple, single-team projects and it can be difficult to scale without thinking about how to blend it with typical enterprise-level management practices including project/program management, project/product portfolio management, and overall business management.
- In some cases, an attempt has been made to force a whole company to be agile in order to adopt an Agile development approach and that just isn’t completely realistic or desirable in some cases. Becoming Agile is not necessarily a goal in itself – it has to be applied in the context of the company’s most critical business objectives – what problem will it solve and how will it solve it?
The “Program Du Jour” Effect
I’ve seen this pattern before – I call it the “Program Du Jour” effect. Everyone is looking for a silver bullet that will magically solve all of their problems. When one thing doesn’t work, they toss it out and try something else.
I saw that with Six Sigma in the early 2000’s. When Six Sigma was hot, everything that came before it was obsolete and no longer relevant. And, some companies made a fairly superficial attempt to apply Six Sigma, decided it didn’t work, and tossed it out waiting for the next “silver bullet” to come along. Here’s a quote from my original book on Agile Project Management on that subject:
“Agile methodologies have the potential to have an enormous impact; however, like many other new and hot methodologies:”
- “Consultants tend to swarm all over them and sell it as a cure for almost anything that ails you, and
- Many companies and managers want to jump on this bandwagon and that further builds the hysteria in the market.”
“The result of this can be:
- “Jumping into agile looking for a ‘quick fix’ without fully realizing that it takes a significant commitment to make it successful; resulting in superficial implementations that are likely to fail
- Attempting to implement agile methodologies in a business environment or organizational culture that is inconsistent with an agile approach
- Attempting to use agile methodologies for projects that they are inappropriate for or failing to blend a sufficient level of agility with the level of control that is needed”
If Agile is done correctly, it is a very broad, flexible, and adaptive approach for solving a number of different problems; however, it is not a “silver bullet” – it won’t solve any problem you might have. I hope we’re getting past the “silver bullet” phase and starting to put the right amount of thought into applying Agile intelligently and continuously improving and refining it.