Chances are that you heard any of these claims or similar at some point of your career especially if you work in IT and Software Development:
– “We used Agile in a previous project and it wasn’t good
– “I have worked in Agile before and it didn’t work
– “Agile doesn’t work for us
– “Agile doesn’t work

Perhaps you or someone close to you was the judge pronouncing the ultimate death sentence to Agile either because skeptical toward agility or because enthusiastic to promote the next innovative Agile-sounding methodology that promises to go beyond Agile Manifesto

Short digression: Agile is a mindset, not a methodology, but most of the Agile-sounding trends end up being methodologies and like most prescriptive methods they are not even Agile. 

Whether you are the judge, or a juror or a witness, or a passionate attorney of either side… let’s take a deeper look at the main allegation: “Agile doesn’t work“.
Who is the subject? Is agile a person? An organization? A subliminal entity with will and power? Is “Agile” someone or something with awareness, consciousness and freedom to do something?
The answer to all these questions is No. 


Of course not. Yet, some people surprisingly insist on using misleading generalizations like “Agile doesn’t work“.
Why do they do that? De-responsibilization. “Agile” is to be blamed, not me. Agile is faulty, not my own interpretation of it, our understanding of it , our implementation of it.

Whoever says that agile doesn’t work is like that beach volley player that blames the sand whenever is not able to catch a ball, to make a point, to succeed. The coach Julio Velasco, calls this way of thinking, “the culture of alibis”. It’s basically the more ridiculous version of scapegoating.
If Agile doesn’t work for you it is because it is not supposed to. You are the one who should work on your agility. You are the one responsible for it. You are the one that should make the effort to be Agile, to embrace the change, to transform yourself, to acquire and improve agility skills. 

The definition of Agile is so Agile that change with the context

Agile is a mindset. Agile is a culture expressed by values and principles. From the historical point of view, Agile is a cultural movement that shook, shaped and changed forever the way software is designed, built, delivered, sold. Taking it with a grain of salt and in the right context you can also use Agile to refer to a set of frameworks, techniques and practices -like CI/CD for instance. In the specific context of distinguishing the various types of SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) the Agile model is a combination of iterative and incremental process models with focus on process adaptability and customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of working software products.
In any of this context, the responsibility “to make Agile work” is on the human side – the one that can fail or that can be coached.

Blaming Agile

People, teams, organizations can try to become Agile. Some are aware that acquiring an agile mindset (growth mindset) requires time, energy, effort, practice, willingness… Some others give up and blame “the method” showing off their ignorance or misunderstanding (again, Agile is not a method!) or their fixed mindset.
They cry out like spoiled, disappointed kids “Agile made me do things that don’t work“, “Agile is dogmatic“, “Agile is a waste of time“, “Agile is fragile“, “Agile has too many meetings”, “Agile is incomplete“, “Agile never works for me“… and I could go on with real similar or worst examples I have heard in my career. They obsessively look around to convince new adepts to their faith so that more people can repeat the mantra: “Agile doesn’t work.

The gym doesn’t work either, but it’s up to you to do your exercises. And for some people the gym works well. Especially if they invest time in the workout rather than complaining. Isn’t it? 

Agile is a mindset and is a tool. Your ability to embrace it and master it depends on you. Agility is a must have for any leader and any wise, wild and free human. Agility is an essential skill for success in our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world but even in a prehistoric world or in the ice age, agility was an evolutionary survival technique. Dinosaurs or many other extinct species were not Agile enough to survive and the same is happening to now-days professional dinosaurs. Some are too lazy to be Agile, some of them can’t because they are incapable of seeing the required change, they are getting scared, and they frantically go around spreading the word, the rumor, their truth: “Agile doesn’t work.

Agility before and beyond the Agile Manifesto

Agility is the ability to be flexible, to change, to innovate, and to give up beloved programs and goals if necessary. 
Agility is the willingness to change direction quickly when new conditions demand so.  
Agility is the product of 3 areas of personal growth:
1. Ridding yourself of the straitjacket of family rooted, social, linguistic, cultural, old-fashion professional conditioning.
2. Eliminating the fear of the unknown that prevents you from being open to change.
3. Enjoying the freedom of change directions, actions, goals without the need to justify or judge yourself.

If you are among the lucky ones having an Agile Coach in your organization, don’t miss the opportunity to approach them and ask to work on your agility.

You can also improve your personal and professional agility alone or by partnering with a professional coach.

Comment or get in touch with me to find out more about the personal agility journey.

* * *

I write about organizational patterns, transformational leadership, healthy businesses, high-performing teams, future of workplace, culture, mindset, biases and more. My focus is in leading, training, and coaching teams and organizations in improving their agile adoption. Articles are the result of my ideas, studies, reading, research, courses, and learning. The postings on this site and any social profile are my own and do not represent or relate to the postings, strategies, opinions, events, situations of any current or former employer.

This article has been published for the first time on by the author Daniele Davi’.
© Daniele Davi’, 2021. No part of this article or the materials available through this website may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published, broadcast or reduced to any electronic medium, human or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of the author, Daniele Davi’.