Is Full Agile Terrible? 

 December 19, 2021

By  Anthony Amos

On Reddit, a user posted the statement, “Full Agile Is Terrible”. It was a great question, and you may be surprised at the answer.

The Full Reddit User’s Post, “Full Agile Is Terrible”

Granted I don’t have a ton of years of experience, but this new fully remote gig I’m at is great except for one thing…the amount of useless ‘Agile’ meetings they have are a huge waste of time, money and bores everyone to tears.

I’m currently sitting through 3 fucking days, where the ENTIRE DAY is project planning for future sprints. There is zero actual work done the entire time, it’s simply talking about user stories, user cards, confidence votes, creating boards showing tasks that depend on other tasks, what fucking colors specific stories, boards, tasks and issues should be. A co-worker estimated the cost for this shit, and it’s costing them in payroll something like 250k over 3 days (10k/hr for all employees * 8 hrs/day * 3 days).

Just had to rant, but I 100% now believe my friend who said none of the big time tech guys actually use Agile like this because it’s such a horrible waste of time. I can only imagine Musk or Papa Benzo’s flipping out within 5 mins of sitting in this waste of time.”

What I Told This User

I completely understand this person’s justifiable rant. First, this isn’t Agile, it is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) or some variant of it. It’s pretty apparent that management has not educated this person on how the organization manages their large projects, nor have they clearly conveyed this person’s role or where their role fits in the organization’s strategy.

This organization is trying to be agile, but sadly these are red flags that the organization is setting this person up to fail. They are running a Program Increment (PI) Planning session. If you are, in fact spending 3 days in a meeting without a clear understanding of your purpose or the overall objective, then that is a true failing of management. If this doesn’t change, then prepare for more bumps along the way.

To be clear, I am not defending SAFe nor am I saying it is terrible. It does sound like the company you joined is doing a poor job of execution. It is well documented that all of Musk’s and Bezos’ companies use various Agile implementations and that has contributed to their success. The difference is that those companies correctly follow Agile principles, and many other companies go through the motions which leads to terrible outcomes.

Read more about managing Agile Teams here.

Anthony Amos

Anthony started creating software in 1981 when he curiously picked up the programming manual for a Wang OIS Word Processor while deployed with the US Navy. He had never seen a computer before, but he taught himself how to write programs that made his Navy work easier and more accurate.
After his honorable discharge in 1986, he began creating financial and analytical software for diverse organizations including Verizon Wireless, JP Morgan Asset Management, GoldenTree Asset Management, NASDAQ, Prudential Insurance, AT&T Capital Corporation, Lehman Brothers, Ernst & Young, and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of New Jersey.

Demonstrating his commitment to the principles and values of Agile Software Engineering, Anthony is a recognized SAFe® version 5 Program Consultant and holds many of the most challenging and difficult to attain Agile certifications. His practice is grounded in Agile Frameworks as he leads clients to implement Scrum, Kanban, Scrum with Kanban, Scaled Scrum with Nexus, and Scaled Agile Framework. He believes in using the framework that best fits the organization's cultural and business direction while maintaining disciplined processes.

Tony Amos

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