Agile Methodology using Scrum: Manifesto Author’s criticism

In a rather cynical, amusing and somewhat pessimistic language, Dave Thomas, one of the authors of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, gave his talk the title “Agile is Dead.”


Discover the series of reasons that made Dave Thomas acidly criticize the agile methodology using scrum, or at least what it has become, and what new approach he suggests for software development.

In the end, don’t forget to watch the video of the GOTO Conferences lecture in full, it’s only 40 minutes long and an excellent opportunity to learn more about the agile methodology using scrum

See also: Lean Performance Improvement: A Guide

Is the agile methodology using scrum dead?

Thomas begins the lecture with a quick contextualization of the evolution of software development and programming techniques, and tells in a picturesque way of how, after lunch with friends, he wrote the Agile Development Manifesto.
And it’s from this point that his criticisms of the agile methodology using scrum, or at least what it has become, begin.

Was it a mistake to publish the Agile manifesto?

No, Thomas doesn’t go so far as to say that programming at that time was making projects into chaos, or something unsustainable. One day a light came on, and a group of people realized the importance of making teams focus only on the important things during software development, without getting lost in daydreams.

And the agile methodology using scrum is part of this generation of new programming methodologies that tried to make professionals leave behind innocuous complications and concentrate on what really matters.

So the manifesto was important and the agile methodology using scrum played an important role in this, but something strange has happened over time: Values have been lost, behind the implementation of a methodology.

And he explains why.

Also check: Agile Scrum Development: Everyday User’s Secrets

An adjective that has become a noun

When Agile and Scrum methodologies were born, the word agile was an adjective to define the way to develop software without the loss of time and with a focus on the work and the issues most relevant to it.

Today, the word agile, in this context of software development, has become a noun.

The original name was: The Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

But people don’t call it that, they call it the “Agile Manifesto”

Agile is not what you do, agility is how you do it.
And that’s where all the problems started: what should be a way of working, became a proper name, with a capital letter and all!

And you know why? Because we can sell nouns, but not adjectives: one does not sell a little agile, but I can sell you the “Agile Manifesto”.

An industry has been created around the manifesto, a trade in training, consultancy, books, conferences, etc., which, for the most part, are events or slot machines.
And this, in Thomas’s opinion, has nothing to do with the values of the manifesto!

Learn more about this: Agile Scrum and Kanban: Don’t get them confused any longer!

Using fear to sell the agile methodology using scrum

As soon as it became a noun, agile methodology using scrum had to be part of the repertoire of every business manager, well-informed executive, and especially those who worked with IT and programming.
Otherwise, you were considered old, out of date, had fallen behind and soon would be outdone or out of a job!

And what’s the quickest way to know what those strange new words meant? Scrum, Kanban, epic stories?
Now, there’s nothing more practical than a course to become a “scrum master” in an afternoon, over 4 hours.Once ready, you’re already qualified to lead agile teams, beat up your competitors, develop software, and use agile methodology using scrum as a master!

It’s time to restore agility!

But Dave Thomas doesn’t use this talk for criticism alone, he points out solutions and a new way of looking at programming.

He even says he still deeply believes in the values of agility.

And to put it into practice, he points to a rather lean method, based on three steps and a looping:

  1. What to do: find out where you are
  2. Move a small step towards your goal
  3. Adjust your understanding based on what you’ve learned

Repeat this cycle

In other words: Software development should happen after you understand the problem.

Create a small part of the solution for it. Then check what has happened, see what works and improve it; and throw away what didn’t work.

After that, take another small step and repeat the process.

Another important tip

When facing two or more solutions, choose the one that will be easier to change if it doesn’t work.

He defines this concept in one sentence: good design is easier to change than bad design.
This refers to the moment of throwing away what didn’t work, without losing everything else that you accomplished.

Thomas goes on to summarize this new methodology. Find out what the mistakes were, study the “history” and realize what your changes will bring in the future.

To conclude, he gives advice to the audience, and to all of us:

Don’t let others tell you what you should do, no rule is universal, everyone must take context into account.

Certainly, he was referring to the agile methodology using scrum, when used as a noun.

Check out the video, it’s worth it:

GOTO 2015 • Agile is Dead • Pragmatic Dave Thomas


Attending lectures and reading books on subjects of your interest is always important.
Want to know more about process modeling other than software creation processes?

Then download our free ebook: The BPM Cookbook, and learn more about modeling BPM processes.

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