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Agile is a tainted term

Oh no, not another agile article.

But at least this one isn't attempting to teach or reconcile. I'm not going to talk about the difference between agile and Agile™ nor will I try to convince you of my favorite flavor of Agile™.

Instead, I'm here to assert that agile is a tainted term: it has become a hollow buzzword, stripped of all meaning and drowned in a sea of convoluted processes and certifications. It has more baggage than benefit.

Don't get me wrong, the underlying principles of the Agile Manifesto are great. The ideals help minimize the amount of time you spend building the wrong thing. Requirements are hard and open communication is good. Delivering value and working software is also good.

But here's the problem with using the word "agile" anymore: everyone has their own understanding of what it means, and that understanding is usually closer to some process like Scrum or Kanban or (god help you) SAFe. When you say the word "agile," you'll see one developer break out into a cold sweat because it was used to make her work at 110% capacity until she burned out. Another developer will weep at the thought of an overbearing scrum master or pointless ceremonies.

SAFe diagram Figure 1: SAFe, what the fuck

To reset expecations with anyone who has been traumatized by some shitty process masquerading as "doing agile," you essentially have to spell out the principles of the Agile Manifesto... and therefore you didn't need the word "agile" in the first place.

There are some takes out there that agile is dead. I don't think that's quite true, but the word "agile" is certainly dead dead. It's devoid of any meaning because it means everything and nothing all at once. The principles of agile development are still wonderful and useful, but there is no longer a singular word that can helpfully convey them. Maybe there really never was, but for sure none exists today.