Stinking badges…..

The first time I heard this quote was in a sample. The tune was “Medicine Show” by Big Audio Dynamite, which is quite apt.

: a traveling show using entertainers to attract a crowd among which remedies or nostrums are sold

You’ll have seen them in films and stuff about the old West. Usually snake oil salesmen with a miracle elixir which they’ll use to solve all your problems.

I feel that’s indicative of how a number of consultancies sell Agile.

But let’s start with the badges bit. Search for “Agile certification” and you’ll get pages of results. It’s bizarre to me that these certificates are valued, I understand why the industry behind them exists, especially now that almost twenty years since The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was published…… agile is mainstream.

BUT industrialising a way of working fails in many ways to facilitate what agile approaches can deliver. Before I get stink over this, yeah some of my friends have them (it’s true I do have friends), and it’s not actually the certificates that wind me up. I just like the stinking badges quote.

It’s the selling of agile by people who are crap at it but say they do it… They probably have an Agile Practice. Why? because it’s cool and everyone thinks Waterfall sucks.

Anyway rant over.

The problem is when they start to think that something’s cool, then it’s time to move on, because they make it rubbish. It’s like when you used to go that cool club, where they played the cool music and then they started going, and ruined it.

Who are they? You don’t need me to tell you. You can spot them quite quickly.


Incidentally I love memes, particularly this one. Although that’s partly because I love the film The Princess Bride. This meme gets wheeled out a lot and it’s a funny way of challenging what people are saying.

BUT…. if I’m honest it does piss me off a bit how agile has been sabotaged. You see it everywhere. On CVs, on profiles and big consultancies with their practices. Please don’t mention SAFE or certifications, as that will drive me over the edge.

The recognition of agile by the mainstream as a way of building and delivering is great, but at times it feels like buzzword bingo.

This from Comic Agile sums it all up TBH.

Incidentally if you’re not following them on Linkedin the YOU ABSOLUTELY SHOULD BE.

Sticking Agile on a job title, doesn’t change things. You could say the same for Digital tbh.

They’re just the current words. Alongside others like; transformation, practice, operability etc. Language is important, and I guess you could say that using these words shows some understanding of industry trends. There’s no doubt that language is a cultural tool, and it provides a sub text.

For me, the usage of agile in role titles indicates two things:
1. An acknowledgement that an understanding of agile delivers value.
2. When appended to a “traditional” title, it shows a lack of understanding of what agile is.

It’s tricky right? When you’re looking for work, then you want it to get past people who just know the words to look for, because they’re scouring profiles to fill a role. It’s particularly relevant now as organisations try to recover from the ongoing impact of events over the last year.

I did a presentation/talk before the zombie apocalypse. It was about “Punk Teams”, which is a thing me and some friends used to describe a way of working. That way of working is actually what the agile manifesto was really about. The title we used was indirectly linked to this article.

Truth be told, we didn’t originally call it “Punk Teams”, but it was more palatable than the idea we had in mind :-)

Although putting “Punk” as a prefix is probably just as bad as using “Agile” or “Digital”.

Anyway the point of all this is that deep down I believe that Agile is becoming increasingly overplayed. Previously I posted about how I liked agile as a way of working and delivering value. It’s true I do like agile…. MORE than other established ways of working, plus I think it’s awesome that it’s opened up organisations to thinking in different ways.

But right now we need to be thinking about how to take the next step forward. There are new ways of working that support remote teams, building great software, and doing it in a way that doesn’t require elaborate hierarchies which look strikingly similar to redundant management structures, but with new job titles.

Paying lip service to things people think are cool won’t help, nor will badges.



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