hero:Agile: the hard truth about empiricism
– 2 min read

Agile: the hard truth about empiricism

A good piece on “why agile fails”1 by Cliff Berg and an excellent reply by Simo Sorvari to the same - helped me to unfurl a topic I’ve been trying to explain in the past: a fundamental reason why companies and agile fail in the wild: empiricism.

It might sound wild, especially coming from a person who is very openly a clear proponent of scientific leadership and empiric measurement. But people who support movements like #no-estimates and #no-plans have a point. If your plan is based on hearsay, myth, and unrealistic ideas, might it be more beneficial to proceed without a plan?

Agile – or any lean approach – will not work if you can not measure, understand, and control the value you intend to create. Most of the time, we don’t seem to have the means or the will to measure the actual, empirical value generated for the stakeholders. Be they customers, clients, bosses, or shareholders.

Logic dictates that – in these cases, our agile journey will auto-fail.

How to open the knot?

My main critique of the #no-estimates philosophy is that the issue of wishful thinking is not only solvable – but also that solving the root cause of unrealistic planning will solve a broader set of problems and fix the planning errors.

What if we’d stop assuming2 everyone can magically calculate the price of the time they use to this quarter’s revenue or the work’s contribution towards recurring revenue?

Because most people can’t and never will, including many managers and leaders who think they can.

We could then start discussing the value we expect to create and how to measure it. Understanding value creation would enable us to unlock the promise of agile methodologies – and help us support the organization’s business objectives.

Why do “agile transformations” focus on superficial processes, titles, and terminologies if this is the case? Why don’t we start with fixing the root issue?


  1. The LinkedIn mesage can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/posts/cliffberg_agile-leadership-activity-7136443897513160704-Y0ZS

  2. The broken assumptions of modern way of doing business, seems to be a larger trend in my thinking, see Strategy: the things we forget to vocalize