Agile / Pervagile on Slashdot

June 10, 2020
6 minute read
Perhaps you have seen the XKCD comic ( where the guy is stuck in front of his ‎computer typing furiously away. His partner/wife/whatever asks him to come to bed and he says, “not ‎yet, someone is wrong on the internet!” This article arose from one of those situations. It’s a bit of a ‎rant and was written quickly. Here it is in all its rough glory!‎

There is a book review of “Becoming Agile” by Smith and Sidky on Slashdot ‎‎( I haven’t read the book (yet) so I can’t comment on the book nor on ‎the review. However, I did want to comment on the comments of Slashdot users. Their ‎experience with Agile methods seems to be terrible. Either that or they are incredibly ‎ignorant and have pre-judged agile. Since I know that (most) Slashdot users are pretty ‎intelligent, I’m going to assume that they have mostly just had really terrible experiences ‎with agile.‎

The Agile Manifesto values “Individuals and Interactions” over “Processes and Tools”. ‎Many of the comments were about Agile being used as a cudgel to beat teams into ‎submission. No matter what anyone says, this is not agile. This is perverted Agile or ‎‎“Pervagile”.

Pervagile is common. Scrumbutt ( is one form of ‎Pervagile. Waterscrum ( is another form of Pervagile. Scrummerfall ‎is yet another. But there are many other forms as well: the Pervagile Sweatshop where ‎teams are forced to meet arbitrary scope in one week deadlines, the Pervagile Common ‎Room where people on many different projects are forced to work in an open space, and ‎the Pervagile Silo Team where only developers are doing Agile and everyone else is in their ‎normal functional silos.‎

On Slashdot we see some interesting comments like this one (‎

So we’ve gone from over-designing systems to under-‎designing systems.‎
How about right-designing a system based on the complexity ‎of the scope and the key personnel involved?‎
Is that crazy?‎

No, it’s not crazy, and that’s what Agile is trying to help us to do. Pair programming, test ‎driven development, potentially shippable software, continuous integration, Agile modelling ‎are all Agile practices that help us “right-design” a system. So this person must have ‎experienced a team doing Pervagile Minimum Discipline where all good practices are not ‎just done in small bits along the way, but actually ignored. I’m not sure why they ignored ‎doing good incremental design – perhaps someone told them that Agile doesn’t require ‎good design skills on the team!‎

Here’s another interesting comment (‎

The attempt to write a Python implementation in Python, ‎PyPy [], turned into a death march. The project ‎has been underway since at least 2003 (when they had their ‎first “sprint”), never produced a usable system, and the ‎European Union pulled the plug on funding. But the project ‎limps on. There’s a released version. It’s slower than CPython. ‎There’s supposed to be a “just in time” compiler Real Soon ‎Now. (This is try #2 at a JIT, not counting the schemes for ‎outputting Java bytecode and Javascript.) Six years in on a ‎compiler project, and no product.‎

The PyPy project is very “agile”. They have “sprints”. They ‎have “flexibility”. They have nightly builds. They have ‎mailing lists and trackers. They support multiple output back-‎ends. They have about 50 contributors. What they don’t have ‎is a usable product.‎
Hmm. Sounds like they’re trying to do Scrum. But they’ve missed a pretty critical piece: ‎potentially shippable software at the end of _every_ Sprint. I have no idea why they aren’t ‎able to do that, but I imagine that if they really understood Scrum, they would be in a much ‎different place at this time. This is a clear case of Pervagile Valueless Deliveries where the ‎team does stuff every iteration, but they don’t worry about delivering valuable results.‎
So. Pervagile is pervasive. That’s clear.‎
Why is it so pervasive? There are two parts to this: one, Agile is hard and two, Agile is ‎mistaken for a silver bullet (‎

Agile is Hard
Okay, I’m actually being a little dishonest. The real truth is that doing Agile is extremely, ‎exceptionally, agonizingly difficult (for most people in most organizations). Why? Because ‎Agile is not just another process to roll out. It is, as has been mentioned in numerous places, ‎a deep cultural change. Agile is actually a liberation movement for people involved in ‎software development. Like most movements, however, it has been subject to corruptive ‎forces.‎

Agile is Mistaken for a Silver Bullet
Agile is Hard, and therefore it cannot possibly be a silver bullet. Many executives and ‎managers hear about Agile and want to do it in their organization because they have heard ‎the amazing success stories (yes, they do exist – scroll to the bottom to learn about ‎Wildcard Systems here: But what often is not effectively ‎communicated is how much crisis, how much effort, how much radical change went into ‎these success stories. Here’s a hint: if you think a large organization can become Agile in ‎less than five years, you’re fooling yourself.

Even a very small organization should expect ‎at least two years of solid effort before the changes really take hold. Of course, if you are ‎lucky enough to be starting from scratch, then you might do better than this.‎

I’m pretty tired of people misunderstanding Agile methods. But unfortunately this is the ‎reality of our work landscape. I would love to work with a client where the CEO has said ‎something to the effect of “I’ve budgeted 10% of our operations and ten years to do our ‎Agile transformation.” Of course, that’s pretty much a laughable wish. Unfortunately it’s ‎the reality of the effort involved for most organizations.‎


[This article was originally published on Agile Advice on 16-Nov-2009]

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