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Experienced Agilista's proved wrong (again)

So, Jurgen Appelo is unhappy that some of the more experienced Agile names have been telling him what to do. In particular, apparently they’ve been doing so without understanding complexity theory; he’s not reacting well.

In between the ranting, much of what Jurgen says is obviously true. For disorganised teams, adopting Scrum and nothing else will help them get more organised and productive, as seems to be his case. But he then goes on to say that anyone who tries to clip his wings and tell him how to develop software cannot be agile because they’re not adaptive enough—and by the way, he knows lots of stuff about complex adaptive systems that other people don’t.

My first reaction is to suggest that he not underestimate some of the people he’s reacting to. Ron Jeffries can certainly be provocative, but I don’t think he does it to try to convince people he’s smart. And some of us have been investigating complex adaptive systems for years.

What I think Jurgen is missing (or at least not making explicit) is that there isn’t a single axis between chaos and ordered, some aspects of an organisation do need to be ordered (in the end, we’re dealing with physical machines here) and some things complex (the people bits, usually). I may use complex adaptive techniques to understand what to build and how to communicate that, but I also want the thing to work reliably and not to be dragged down by a fear of making changes.

Sure, people in the community say dumb things, but we have actually learned some things over the last ten years. One is that we see team after team that has hit the wall because they didn’t work cleanly. Some have the luxury of a financial buffer which allows them to continue working sub-optimally. Just a few teams have understood the real trade-offs and can undercut the opposition by delivering faster and more reliably—and no-one promised that it would be easy or quick to achieve.


  1. Steve, thanks for the response! I appreciate discussions, though apparently some don’t appreciate my style. 😉

  2. @Jurgen. Thanks for getting back. I’ve been known to rant a little in my time 🙂

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