What I Overheard About What Sounds Like “Fake Agile” or “Agile B.S.”


This software developer wasn't the first to say it. I wasn't the first to overhear it. And, I'm surely not the first person to blog about this.

I was at a restaurant for lunch yesterday and I overheard a developer say:

“At my last organization, they called it #agile but it was really waterfall with daily stand ups. They wanted to say they were doing agile. I thought about calling in sick every day to avoid those meetings.”

I'm not very knowledgeable about software development, but I know that “waterfall” is the old, traditional approach to software.

This “Agile in a Nutshell” blog post compares the slow, sequential, batchy nature of waterfall to what's supposed to be the faster, more iterative, continuous flow model of agile.

But, it's tempting for an organization to just want to SAY they are “doing agile.”

It would be like a manufacturing company being in a situation where, “We still produce in batch-and-queue, but look at how we've 5S-ed our trash cans and put tape around them.”

Or, it could be like a healthcare organization where, “Many patients are being harmed or die as the result of preventable medical errors, but we have created a lot of value stream maps and we have daily huddles.”

5S-ing deck chairs on the Titanic anyone?

So-called “fake agile” is common enough that the United States Department of Defense has put out warnings against the practice.

See this article by Steve Denning:

How Fake Agile At DoD Risks National Security

Denning writes:

The DoD guide, “Detecting Agile BS“, recognizes that while DoD software development projects are, almost by default, now declared to be ‘agile,' in reality, they are often not.

Here is a direct link to the report as a PDF.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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