Corporate Lab Rats - The Infantilization of Agile

Found this short video in my LinkedIn stream:

Tend to agree.

What do you think?


I’m going to quote the Spanish philosopher Antonio Escohotado who said:
“In life, nothing is black and white. Everything has multiple shades of grey, with polka dots”

In my early days as a Scrum Master, I started with a dysfunctional team (not only said by me, but by some other team members). Simple concepts such as iterative development (an approach that existed decades before Agile was born), were unknown. Some team members were actually quite fresh from college, where they had learn things like (hold your breath…) managing software projects with Gantt charts.

The tools I started to use at the beginning were games, some of the games are mentioned in this talk such as the Ballpoint Game. The objective for me was to illustrate concepts in an fun and accessible way. That helped, but what I realized only much later was the fact that by having people interacting with each other in these sessions they got the opportunity to talk. By doing so, the process of “building a team” was accelerated.
Surely there are other ways of getting people to talk to each other, and I guess the more experience you have in your career the more confident you feel when talking in a group of people. That might not be often the case when the average age of your team is quite young.
But that approach helped me big time with young teams.

That is the lighter shade of grade. The darker shade is what I have termed Agilism, turning a good idea into a doctrine. Be it Scrum, SAFe, LeSS, Kanban and or TameFlow for that matter. Also using “Agile” as a weapon to mandate lay-offs in IT departments as mentioned in the video. Unscrupulous so-called “coaches” selling snake oil, and so on so forth.

Personally, before I had my first experience with Scrum I worked in a very siloed and command-and-controlish team. I was given tasks by the boss, who wouldn’t trust me with difficult tasks so I would end up working on low hanging fruit. I never quite managed to impress, and it wasn’t until a Scrum Master arrived that he helped us to break our silos within the team and truly make us a self-organized team. Because I felt that after that point I was really empowered to choose tasks and pushed myself, I couldn’t be more grateful to this Scrum Master and what Scrum represents when is good intentioned.

Sorry, that was some ramble from me, I would probably conclude with a “I disagree with Dan Lyons to some extent” :wink:

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I think the Corona Virus is going to put a balm on these excessive habits.

@dhdez All things brought to the excess or extreme will be bad. (Except, eXtreme Programming… of course!). I like your coining the term “Agilism” - but don’t agree about the “doctrine” characterization. A better term is probably “fundamentalism.”

Doctrine - in the Wardley Mapping / military sense - is extremely useful. It is what allows your teams to arrive at collective team flow-states. They can only be on “autopilot” if they have completely internalized the fundamental patterns - i.e. system of beliefs or “doctrine” - that makes them act at once, as one body, with precise coordination and synchronicity.

Maybe I assumed you meant something different with that word?

And yes, gamification is important to break old habits of interaction. But even gamification - when brought to the extreme, when done for its own sake - will become dysfunctional and end up in that state of “infantilization” of Dan Lyons.

Hi Steve, I take your point on doctrine. I referred to doctrine as in its meaning of set of beliefs held by a group of people (may it be religious or philosophical). Which like you pointed out it is not a bad thing per se. What I meant to say probably was that doctrine when turned dogma is is a big issue.

Talking about gamification… I’m really looking forward to seeing TameFlow Games released. I know I’m off-topic here but… how is that going?


@DanielDoiron hahaha most definitely.

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Ehm… somewhere in the WIP backlog! :scream:


We see five major problems in the space called “Agile”:

1. People mix all kind of garbage in there, from political ideology over esoterics all the way to religious dogma.
Not only does nobody stop this garbage, people add new garbage every day under the guise of “infinite practices”. Seriously - we even see stuff like “Agile <insert name of any major world religion>” trainings and retreats out there!
And it was nobody less than Jeff Sutherland, who uses his trainings to promote the notion that Scrum can be used in church.

2. Uncertainty, Unknown become paramount - and everything goes.
It’s amazing how hard it is to find supporters of the idea that even in an Agile paradigm, not all approaches are equally valid. When I put out the blunt question whether people think that system monitoring and tin foil hats are equally valid approaches for preventing software problems, not a single Agilist would support the notion that these two concepts do indeed not have the same probability of succeeding. Do these people still understand anything about businesses, software or reality?

3. People who have no clue about Software Engineering now feel entitled to tell experts how to do their job.
No experience required, and not a face-level dialogue. It’s entirely unidirectional communication. The “Agilist” speaks, and you do as you’re told. No questions allowed, resistance will end in reprimand. What was the entire point of starting the Agile Manifesto is now okay, because it’s done by “Agile” Coaches.

4. Massive influx of incompetent people who are only in it for the money.
Qualification not required. MBA? Who cares! Six Sigma practitioner? Irrelevant. Process manager? Worthless. Actually understand the TPS? Irrelevant. ToC? Just a waste of time.
Passed a multiple choice mouse quiz on a seventeen page document without any scientific basis? Woot, here comes the money!

5. People who criticize the above ideas above get stigmatized for not “having the Agile mindset”.
The discourse is entirely polluted - if you tag along and let the garbage flood the workplace, and even heap more garbage on top, nobody says anything. But if you call the Emperor’s New Clothes - you’re an outcast!
No amount of years of experience in the Agile space, and no credentials matter when you say there’s a problem: you don’t get it, and you probably never did. And because of that, you’re a quack who shouldn’t be left near any enterprise.

I have started dropping people from my LinkedIn network who exhibit two or more of the problems above.
It’s insanity.


My first experience with Scrum was the opposite.
As a Six Sigma practitioner, we were working in a cross-functional high-performance team which -despite having specialist roles like “Analyst, Developer, Tester”- worked as a stable unit with a Single Piece Flow paradigm. Time to market just a few days once a request is accepted by the team.

Comes management. Introduces Scrum. Scrum Master’s a complete idiot.
Tells people that developers are the only people allowed to speak in Daily Scrum. Starts calling the Muslim Developer a “pig”. He didn’t find it amusing. Invited analysts and testers out of the daily.
Tells developers that they must plan two weeks ahead and can’t change scope after Sprint Planning.
Tells the team lead that they’re no longer in charge - people are now self-organized. Throws everything into disarray.
Tells everyone that we don’t “stop the line” when there’s a problem, because at the end of the Sprint, there’s a Retrospective where problems go.
Tells team members that they’re not supposed to engage with business stakeholders during the Sprint, only during Reviews. Communication breaks.
Tells people that we no longer call stuff “requirements”, but we work with “user stories” instead. Our old Excel list where we knew what was in the pipeline when became invalid - we had to use sticky notes instead. Because our team was spread across three rooms, that created massive confusion.

That was a decade ago.

I have since seen good Scrum. But just because it’s Scrum, it doesn’t mean it’s good - and most (like Fowler said, maybe 90%) of Scrum implementations just plain suck.


Sounds you will be inspired to draw many cartoons… :scream:

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I really was not able to discern the point of the video. It seemed like an exercise in standing up strawmen in order to knock them down. The video was not effective in conveying that the speaker really believed in anything or had a takeaway for the audience.

Detailed rant which I find myself in agreement with. :wink:

Agile or Agile Software Development is about writing good software.

Playing with Lego is fun. I’d do that again :slight_smile:

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