Agile Isn't Punk Anymore, It's Arena Rock


It was 1979 and the punk movement wasn’t going anywhere. The music was loud, the hairdos were spiky and a majority of the older generation really didn’t get what was happening.

In order to bring some order to the chaos, Swedish state television, the only one allowed at the time, decided to do a televised concert with what’s now punk legends Ebba Grön.

While the kids ran a mosh pit on the floor, older people were seated in stands behind. When the music was over a journalist asked the older people, “So, what did you think of this”. It was a weird time.

Ok, that’s fun, but what has this got do to with anything?

The way I see it, the agile movement was the punk movement when it came about in the early 2000’s. Early practitioners were in a intellectual moshpit banging ideas against each other.

Ebba Grön

The large corporations and existing process vendors were the old people in the stands thinking it was very loud and not at all what they were used to. The initial reaction from the old crowd was denial and resistance, but fast forward to today, the very same organisations have now adapted the term agile, but of course with the mandatory prefix “Scaled”.

Old People Watching Rock Concert

When agile became “scaled” in order to work for traditional organisations, it stopped questioning the status quo, it stopped looking for simplicity, it stopped thinking in values and adopted a “best practice” based cookie cutter template approach. In short it stopped being punk rock and became arena rock - rock for people who don’t like rock, adult rock, appealing to enough people that you can fill large arenas.

In my view “scaling agile” is solving the wrong problem. Agile processes shouldn’t adapt to a dysfunctional organization, it’s the organization that should change to enable change and feedback. Don’t be a band that plays nicer, less noisy music so that the old people in the back likes it. Don’t become arena rock. Stay punk.