The Agile Industrial Complex: People As Resources

Well. What a difference a day or two makes.

Over the summer of 2018, the following actually happened:

Ron Jeffries (Manifesto signatory) issued a protective warnings and protests about the forcing of Agile practices, and  The Agile Industrial Complex, in his public writing.

Martin Fowler called the Agile Industrial Complex “our first problem” and in that same essay he said “our challenge now is dealing with faux (fake) Agile.

And then he said:

“…the Agile Industrial Complex imposing methods upon people…is an absolute travesty.”

For the record, the word [travesty] is defined as “a false, absurd, or distorted representation of something” (as a noun) and “to represent in a false or distorted way.” (as a verb.)


You’d expect the rest of the “agile thought leaders” to weigh with an opinion on this big, huge issue, right?

Especially the loudest voices that are constantly seeking the spotlight.

But no. Not this time.

It’s strangely silent.

The crickets are chirping.

Can you see why?

Anyone party to “push” or anyone with friend$ in the “push” business are in a double-bind. If they come out for Push, they look idiotic in light of the Manifesto.

And if they say anything nice about opt-in participation, if they come down on the side of invitation, they risk alienating their friend$ in the industry who routinely provide lots of big-org consulting opportunities and deal flow.

So there it is.

The best strategy if you are for Push is…. to keep quiet.

To shut up.

And hope it all goes away.

Except it’s not.

In addition to Ron Jeffries and Martin Fowler, dozens of extremely experienced and very credible and very concerned Agile folks, people like Mark LevisonJon JorgensenMike Burrows. They just came out and said it.

They said it in print.

They said it from the conference keynote podium. And on social media:

  • The whole community is now driven by money.
  • The imposition of practices is a travesty.
  • Nothing good can come from forcing practices on teams.
    • Doing so is the exact OPPOSITE of what Agile is.
  • Forcing is fundamentally disrespectful of people.
    • It kills motivation and self-management, and creates disengagement and resentment.
  • And nothing good comes from that.

You can get an idea of what I am talking about by examining the REAL AGILE LEADERS HALL OF FAME link, at the end of this essay. That link contains the full story, and all the names.

And what’s notable is who is NOT on that list. All the big, loud, prominent voices are…missing in action. Nothing to say. No opinion whatsoever on the most pressing issue of our time.

Imagine THAT. This is the new version of “agile thought leadership.”

Let’s be clear:

Most all of the improvement from Agile comes from self-managed, self-organizing teams

Self-management is the self-management of decisions. If there is no change in who makes decisions and how decisions are made, there is no self-management of anything, and therefore no lasting “transformation” of anything at all. Any and all gains are temporary.

In this new default reality, in this fake-Agile  ‘reality distortion field’ , executives are told directly and indirectly that decision-making does not have to change to get a legitimate and lasting “Agile transformation.” That everything can stay the same. That employee engagement is not totally “not necessary.”

And it’s all very comforting.

And it’s just plain incorrect.

So…WRONG. On so many levels.

And a huge disservice to the executives who are supposedly being served an “Agile Transformation.”

In this strange new world of Agile, the “thought leaders,” the large consulting firms and the Agile institutions have exactly ZERO to say about the tolerance of imposition of practices on teams, even as the members of these teams are being fundamentally disrespected. The teams go to the web. They read about the Manifesto principles, and the “respect for people” pillar of Lean. And they know what’s going at their organization is…total bullshit.

In this strange new world of “Agile,” freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

People are resources.



Follow the money.



Related Links:

Ron Jeffries protesting the folly of forcing practices (link)

Martin Fowler warning on travesty of The Agile Industrial Complex (link)

THE REAL AGILE LEADERS HALL OF FAME: the real thought leaders emerge (link)

BEHOLD: The Agile Industrial Complex (link)