At last week’s Agile CULTURECon, a conference billed as providing tools for the “workplace of the next century,” in Lafayette Hill, Pa., much of the discussion centered around how to scale agile software, according to hacker Eric Raymond.
So what has gone wrong? Why aren’t agile techniques scaling? Takes no genius to diagnose that problem: agile, trying to scale up from the bottom, collides with the top-down-imposed conventional corporate habits of death marches, rigid hierarchy, and waterfall planning. And loses, because the imperatives behind all that sludge are wired too deep into the culture of most corporations to be displaced by mere productivity improvements, however dramatic.
The conference had some noise and nonsense in it, including one fuzzy-sweatered wack-job who wasn’t ignored as roundly as she should have been. But with that filtered out, the theme was very clear: we need to learn how to change the cultures that hold people and productivity back so they’ll stop doing that. This is a larger mission than simply “make agile development work” and potentially a far more transformative one.