Sandals or gourds? Get a grip!

Lately, there has been too much negative competition in the field of agile practices.

Anybody remember “individuals and interactions over processes and tools”? Too much negative competition in #agile methodologies #justsaying
@davidjcmorris, Twitter, 21-Aug-2013

It’s like that scene ‘The Holy Gourd of Jerusalem‘ in the Monty Python film ‘Life of Brian’; when the crowd following Brian falls out over how they should follow him. They argue over whether the sandal or the gourd is the most significant symbol; they argue over what each means; and then they argue about whether the footwear is a sandal or a shoe. Ridiculous and distracting, leaving them little time to focus on what was important.

It wasn’t always like this

In the beginning, there were people just getting on with their job, striving to be the best at it they could, including how to deliver quality solutions in better ways.

These ways evolved into what we know today as agile practices, with the agreement in 2001 of some leading practitioners of ‘lightweight’ methodologies to work together.

Then money and marketing got involved; it was no longer enough to show how effective agile practices were, they wanted to show how agile practices were good because waterfall practices were bad. And so began the language of the ‘agilistas’, those who seemed bent on some form of jihad against the supposed evils of waterfall.

That was much was understandable, to a certain extent, because they were proclaiming agile practices as the new way, as if it were a revolution away from waterfall rather than an evolution.

However, mature practitioners acknowledge that Scrum is on a continuum of iterative and incremental approaches like Rapid Application Development (RAD) and Unified Processes (like RUP); likewise the Extreme Programming (XP) has similarities to Joint Application Development (JAD).

Then the infighting between agile practitioners started; like when Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland fell out over Scrum and formed their own separate organisations and

Scaling up for the enterprise

Many of the early agile practices focused on the software development stage of a project, and of course there is much that happens before a project is started, and much that happens after. So we now seen the evolution of enterprise agile practices – with Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and Enterprise Scrum.

This is a hotly competitive arena, as the large corporates and government bodies have deeper pockets than smaller organisations; and out of this had developed a particularly nasty trend of negative publicity.

The people from SAFe are at the Agile Confernce this week. They had no where else to go, since RUP and waterfall don’t exist. Be polite.
Ken Schwaber, @kschwaber, 7-Aug-2013

Ken Schwaber has recently said some negative things about those behind SAFe. Many Scrum advocates, especially those with a vested interest, have joined Ken and it has gathered momentum and grown more negative.

Edit: It’s not just Scrum advocates either (not picking on Ken, that’s just the first I saw); over at Agile Ramblings, Dave White has covered many more from a much wider group too.

Get a grip

I have to call the signatories of the Agile Manifesto on this bad behaviour. Of the four values expressed in the manifesto, the first was “individuals and interactions over processes and tools“, i.e. the power of what we can achieve by working together is far greater than we get by focusing on the process or the tools we use. This value is not being demonstrated by your behaviour.

It doesn’t matter whether you call yourself the People’s Front of Judea or the Judean Popular Peoples Front, falling out over alternative approaches doesn’t advance our cause in the slightest.

To quote the movie from an earlier scene … “Splitters”.

Please, get a grip, or lose the respect of all agile practitioners.


  • Edwin Dando

    Well said David. It is starting to get quite silly.

    Couple of points though:
    1. Jeff Sutherland didn’t set up the Scrum Alliance. Ken set up both the Scrum Alliance and He left the Scrum Alliance due in disgust as the cashed in on his life’s work by selling out Scrum to greedy trainers focused on cashing in on Scrum. He en setup with a focus on learning from the mistakes of the SA and build a better organisation.

    2. I think it’s a little narrow minded (and almost buying into the debate) to label Scrum people as anti SAFe. I
    At the Agile2013 conference in Nashville there were a LOT of people deeply concerned with the core fundamentals of SAFe and whether they aligned with the Agile Manifesto. They were not Scrum practitioners – they were people from all flavours. There were also a LOT of companies running around peddling SAFe as the latest thing, come buy their training, bla bla bla….

    What it ALL come back to is values and principals. The frameworks don’t matter. Values and principals matter. The challenge is that people and organisations don’t really get that, nor do they want to buy that or make the effort to apply it. Therefore, the frameworks exists as the Trojan horse for something quite simple: start treating people with respect and dignity, give them the opportunity to contribute, de-complicate and de-politicize organisations and get on to deliver something people care about.

    • David Morris

      Great response, Edwin, thanks. I was responding to Ken’s comments specifically, as well as alluding to some of the wider white noise from some on the periphery of vs Scrum Alliance … however, it is fair to pull me up on this being too broad a brush with which to paint everyone. That wasn’t my intention. However, it seems we are in agreement over concerns that those with a vested interest in selling one approach or another, from the standpoint that only their way is good, are undermining the values and principles of the agile manifesto.

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