Is Agile En Vogue?

I just came across a really interesting read on the Dr. Dobb’s site. In Ivar Jacobson and Bertrand Meyer’s article “Methods Need Theory,” the two consider the natural impulse for the creator of something to tout it as the latest and greatest. Drawing parallels to the fashion industry’s flash-in-the-pan fads, Jacobson and Meyer suggest that software, like fashion, is not immune to the crazes its most influential tastemakers promote. Certainly, software has seen various management paradigms rise and fall in terms of popularity and the majority of their article focuses on today’s most headline-grabbing trend: agility.

Now, agile has been repeatedly taken to task for being a vague method. After all, it’s really just an umbrella term that collects all the practices that fall beneath it. Of those, several which had their heyday—DSDM, Crystal—have fallen by the wayside. Scrum seems to have emerged the victor in this fight, with its careful balance of structure and flexibility.

One interesting thing to note about Scrum is that it was, in large part, inspired by complex adaptive systems theory, which is, in essence, a theory of evolution. The idea was that Scrum teams—through regular points of inspection and adaptation—would follow the path toward survival, much like a species learning to adapt in the midst of an evolving climate or food chain. This article, written by Laszlo Szalvay of Danube, a Scrum company, suggests that, if that’s the case, Scrum has a mechanism built into it to ensure that it stays relevant to emerging conditions.

What do you think? Are Scrum and generalized agile flavors of the week or built to last?

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