The Agile Community Has Failed Upper Management

Request to ChatGPT

Write a polemic on how the Agile community has failed to assist upper management in making the cognitive shifts necessary for effective adoption of the Agile approach to software development, and to business success more generally.

Response from ChatGPT

The Agile community has failed upper management. It has failed to assist them in making the necessary cognitive shifts to effectively adopt the Agile approach to software development and, more generally, to achieve business success.

Upper management is often resistant to change, and the Agile community has not done enough to help them understand the benefits of the Agile approach. Instead, the Agile community has focused on teaching technical practices and methodologies, neglecting the psychological and cultural shifts that must take place for Agile to be successful.

The Agile community has also failed to adequately communicate the value of Agile to upper management. Many executives see Agile as a fad or a set of buzzwords, and the Agile community has not done enough to demonstrate the tangible benefits of Agile in terms that upper management can understand and appreciate.

Furthermore, the Agile community has not done enough to address the concerns of upper management. Many executives are hesitant to adopt Agile because they fear it will disrupt their existing processes and power structures. The Agile community has not done enough to assuage these fears and show upper management how Agile can be integrated into their organisations in a way that is smooth and beneficial.

In short, the Agile community has failed to assist upper management in making the necessary cognitive shifts to effectively adopt the Agile approach. It is time for the Agile community to refocus its efforts on helping upper management understand and embrace the benefits of Agile, and to address their concerns and resistance to change. Only then will the Agile approach be able to truly fulfill its potential and bring success to the organisations that adopt it.

Me: “Write, in the style of Christopher Hitchens, a scathing critique of Agile software development as a religious phenomenon.”

ChatGPT: “Agile software development is nothing more than a religious phenomenon, a cult-like devotion to a set of vague and arbitrary principles that are masqueraded as a rational approach to software development.”

“The so-called Agile manifesto is a hodgepodge of buzzwords and platitudes that has little connection to the realities of software development. It elevates nebulous concepts like “agility” and “adaptability” over the hard work of actually building software. It is a gospel of buzzwords, a collection of empty phrases that are repeated ad nauseam by its disciples without any real understanding of what they mean.”

“The Agile movement is dominated by a priesthood of gurus and experts who claim to have a monopoly on the truth. They demand unquestioning obedience to their edicts, and dismiss anyone who dares to question their authority. They demand that software developers become “agile” without ever defining what that means, and punish those who do not conform to their rigid and arbitrary rules.”

“The Agile movement is a religion of the status quo. It is a refuge for the lazy and the mediocre, who seek to avoid accountability for their lack of productivity by hiding behind the cloak of Agile principles. It is a crutch for those who are afraid to challenge their own assumptions and biases, and who seek to avoid the hard work of critical thinking and problem solving.”

“In short, Agile software development is a sham, a pseudoscientific fantasy that has no basis in reality. It is a religious movement that is more concerned with maintaining its own power and influence than with actually producing useful software. It is a fraud, a scam, and a waste of time and resources. It should be rejected and denounced by anyone who cares about software development.”

There is helpful and useful content out there. But finding it amongst all the dross is a massive challenge.

I despair of the boatloads of naive advice, misinformation, and just pure tosh that so-called “Agile” people spout on a daily basis. (Not limited to just “Agile” people, of course.)

Caveat lector!

And just in case you’d like a sanity check on anything suspect or dubious, I’m always happy to support your natural scepticism. Just get in touch for non-partisan help.

I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuity. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem.

R. Buckminster Fuller

Risk And Rewards

The Risk Reward Curve

The risk/reward ratio (often illustrated as a curve) marks the prospective reward an investor can earn for every dollar, pound or yen they risk on an investment. Many investors use risk/reward ratios to compare the anticipated returns from an investment with the amount of risk they must undertake to earn these returns.


Investing in Agile Software Development

Adopting an Agile development approach is a kind of investment decision, much like any other investment decision. NB. Not all the investment is financial/monetary in nature, and neither are all the anticipated returns.

Your Winning Rate

Investors have long understood the necessity of combining the risk-reward ratio with the “winning rate” to know whether a given investment decision or strategy will prove a winner.

Agile Adoptions Are Highly Risky And Offer Limited Rewards

Agile adoptions have a remarkably low “winning rate”. Something like 75-90% of all attempted Agile adoptions fail.

It sure beats me why so many decision-makers fail to investigate (and thereby, understand) the risks and winning rates of Agile adoptions. Especially as the rewards accruing from adopting an Agile software development approach are so limited (read: minimal, or negative).

Is your organisation contemplating adopting Agile? Has it done its homework?

– Bob

Quintessence – The Long Overdue Upgrade to Agile

We’ve laboured under the Agile yoke for more than twenty years now. As well as its other failings, Agile has choked off all innovation in the way software is developed.

We’re long overdue an upgrade, and yet there seems no game-changing innovations in sight. Might we conclude that decision-makers are content that current means are good enough to meet their needs? That breakthrough capabilities are of no interest? Or that no new breakthroughs are even possible?

It sure seems like it to me. And yet I continue to propose new, tried and tested, ground-breaking ideas. For those few who are not content to luxuriate in the prevailing status quo. Ideas like Flowchain, Prod•gnosis, the Antimatter Principle, Organisational Psychotherapy, and most recently, Quintessence.

Quintessence is that long overdue upgrade to Agile. Not a downgrade like, for example, the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink abortion that is SAFe.

Nor even a next-generation Agile, which will inevitably include all the shortcomings of the existing Agile approach(es).

Radical Departure

Quintessence is the radical departure from Agile norms, based as it is on people-oriented technologies such as sociology, group dynamics, psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, anthropology, cognitive science and modern neuroscience. Technologies conspicuous by their absence from businesses everywhere.

If logic had anything to do with it, thousands of businesses would be working in the Quintessential way now. But of course logic gets nary a look-in. We human beings are creatures of habit, emotion and bias. Our inner chimps hold sway over the human part of our brain most all of the time.

I guess you’ll dismiss this post much like you’ve dimissed all my other posts on e.g. Quintessence. C’est la vie. That’s monkeys for you.

Further Reading

Peters, S. (2016). The Chimp Paradox. Vermilion, An Imprint Of Ebury Publishing.

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).Available at: [Accessed 11 Mar. 2022].

Seeds of Failure

Agile has become widespread and popular mainly because it promises “improvements” without demanding that the decision-makers change. Of course, without people changing (in particular, managers changing their collective assumptions and beliefs) Agile has zero chance of delivering on its promises. It then becomes “just one more packaged method to install in the development teams” – and just one more debacle.

As the French say:

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

Thus Agile carries with it the seeds of its own inevitable failure.

“But what if managers DO change?” I hear you ask.

Well, if they change themselves in ways that move them and their organisations towards the quintessential, they won’t choose Agile.

Seeds of Success

And if you’re wondering what the seeds of success might look like, you may like to take a look at my recent book “Quintessence” (Marshall 2021).

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. Falling Blossoms (LeanPub).

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