Are you doing fake Agile?

2021-03-10 17:27:19
Taotao & Melon
Summary : Is Agile really useless? Or you just use it in the wrong way.

According to the 14th Annual State of Agile report, organizations are still learning how to implement agile. About 50% of the respondents said that half of their teams are using agile, and 84% of them admit that their organization has not reached a high level of agility.

Seeing companies and teams have achieved great success after implementing agile, more teams are flocking to it, and they are transitioning to agile. But it is by no means an easy task. The common problem is that the team does not understand the principles and core values of Agile, but they are doing Agile instead of being Agile. It ultimately failed. Then the team or members who had undergone this began to publicize the "agile useless theory":  It is to engage so many tricks and would only waste more labor, and resources. Is Agile really useless? Or you just use it in the wrong way.

Individuals and interactionsover processes and tools
Working softwareover comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to changeover following a plan

Some companies claim that they are doing "Agile", but what they do deviates from the Agile Manifesto and the principles. In the end, it is often not done. Robert C. Martin, a co-author of the Agile Manifesto, said in an interview that any tool or process that makes the team feel difficult in their work environment cannot be Agile. Teams look like doing agile can only be" fake agile".

What is fake agile?

Agile skeptics have a handful of terms that have risen to describe the phenomenon referred to as “fake agile”:

  • Zombie Scrum
  • Faux Agile
  • Dark Agile
  • Agile Theater
  • Agile In Name Only(AINO)
  • Agile BS

The distinction is that when it comes to “being” agile, it doesn't matter what framework you use as long as agile key principles are retained. These are the principles that virtually all "true" agile principles that every Agile framework would share.

On the other hand, fake agile is a type of waste. Just like what the failed teams would complain above in the first section of this article. There will be a lot of waste as teams generate a high number of operating builds with the goal to facilitate customer feedback.

Fake Agile Symptoms

Extreme Agile

  • "Agile" is not just "fast". When it comes to agile, a lightweight framework, people mistakenly believe that agile is "fast": quick response and fast delivery. Therefore, the whole team only pursues velocity, so that they have to give up quality in pursuit of velocity. A product that focuses on fast delivery cannot meet the needs of customers, and even fails to pass the quality assurance tests.

  • "Agile" is not just "simplicity". The tenth article of the Twelve Principles of Agile is ”Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.” So some people will understand it as that  the unnecessary process should be simplified since simplicity is promoted. Daily stand-ups are too time-consuming, so skip it; Retrospective meetings are meaningless, omit it; Preparation of documents is too complicated, leave it; Agile advocates responding to changes, so there is no need to plan meetings, ignore it... Absolutists often think it is to simplify more thoroughly for simplicity, and then drastic reforms are done. However, after a chaotic arbitration, the true valuables were "eliminated", leaving confused programmers to continue creating codes in the repetitive and tedious days.

Zombie Agile

  • Daily Scrum meeting. The daily stand-up is a bridge for agile teams to communicate with each other. The daily stand-up does not require team members to make a detailed and clear report on their work. It only takes two minutes to make a simple statement. The total time is generally about 15 minutes. The 15 minutes here is only an approximate time, the specific time can vary according to the number of members of each team and the nature of the work. In the process of agile practice, some teams confuse the concept of a stand-up meeting, but rigidly follow the 15-minute meeting time rule. The requirement must be completed within 15 minutes no matter what. Once the meeting time is rigid, it will put a lot of pressure on the team members, prompting them to find some piecemeal tasks to perfuse the meeting, so they can not achieve the purpose of daily stand-up meetings to promote team communication.

daily scrum meeting
  • Kanban board. Kanban is usually used to help the team realize task visualization and work status transparency, motivate team members to work, and improve work concentration and efficiency. However, after setting up the Kanban board, there will also be a big defect: the Kanban board is in a semi-idle state and cannot be updated in time, and the team members cannot obtain the response information from the Kanban board. The result of this is: Kanban has become a display that represents agility. When the person in charge was reporting work, he pointed to the kanban on the wall: Look, our team is transforming agile. But whether the agile concept has been thoroughly implemented, no one else knows except for the members of the team.

Conservative Agile

Before the team transitions to large-scale agile, the leader needs to be agile. In a traditional team transformation to agility, it is also necessary for leaders to take the lead in the transition to agility and possess lean and agile thinking(See also The Leader Role in Agile Transformation). Only lean and agile leaders can promote the agility of the team by using the strengths of the team and individuals.

I have known a company, the leader of which wants to keep the traditional waterfall development model. When the entire team began to transition to agile, the leaders still advocated the Waterfall development, which caused the team great resistance when implementing sprints in agile development. If there is no unified attitude towards agile transition within the company, the agile team will struggle and might lead to fake agile.

Therefore, if you want to break the "curse" of poor agile transition, you must have the courage to break through the shackles of the team's current model, see through the " fake agile" in the team, change the strategy according to the actual situation of the team, and truly make agile" alive".


An agile organization will adapt quickly to change thanks to pre-established processes that allow it to easily assimilate new insights and integrate new learnings into its goods or consumer experience. Agility necessitates the empowerment of teams. This necessitates confidence, which takes time. The most difficult lesson for leaders is how to recruit and appreciate talented employees.

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