The Agile Industry is dead. And good riddance.
And The Changing Nature of The PM Role
The Agile Industry has never lived up its promise of delivering real, tangible product results.
As Ant Murphy points out in his article on the Agile Industry, “in 2019 an HBR article stated that of the $1.3 trillion spent on transformations, $900 billion was wasted”.
That’s a lot of money.
Or simply take look at most Agile trainings, like this, which seem to think that 2 days of watching Powerpoint presentations on how to manage dev teams will magically make you a product pro.
Unfortunately, up until now, most organisations have simply not seen an alternative; they have felt it was a simple choice between remaining stuck in the past, or buying into the Agile Industry.
This situation has been made worse by the sleight of hand played by Agile Coaches & Consultants across the Industry:
Deliberating conflating Agile with genuine agility.
The promise the Agile Industry makes is more or less the following:
We’ll bring in tangible practices like Scrum in order to see your velocity increase (i.e. help you build stuff faster).
We'll make you feel Agile because we’ll help you adapt to small changes - maybe even change what we put on the roadmap over time.
However, these changes were only ever a veneer. They represented a certain amount of flexibility, but rarely exhibited true agility i.e. the ability to adapt to change the specifications of a feature, but to test core product hypotheses like who the target market is, what the unique value proposition is, the very problem being solved in order to discovery real, tangible product opportunity.
Agile does not = agility
The main drivers of this failure are generally linked to a failure to differentiate a product.
Therefore, being “Agile” and changing feature specs on the fly are, in most cases, a complete waste of time.
If the value proposition is wrong, it doesn’t matter how quickly you build your features.
Nobody is gonna use them.
Here’s the thing:
Product leaders working in these organisations aren’t stupid. They see the millions sunk into bringing in Agile Coaches & Consultants. They see the lack of tangible business results (i.e. a profitable product). Yet they find themselves asking:
What’s the alternative?!
True agility is extremely difficult to cultivate. It takes a cultural shift away from rewarding delivery to rewarding experimentation, failure & results that may be a long time in coming. It takes an acceptance, on an individual & organisational level, of massive uncertainty & a perception of great risk.
Most product leaders - all leaders across the organisation, in fact - are simply not up to the task. Either the culture is too entrenched to shift, or they lack the experience in organisational change, or they simply aren’t up to the fight (and who blames them).
Separating Product Management From Execution Is Anti-Agility
I’ve spent 10 years as a founder & product leader, primarily working with startups.
When I first came across the Agile Industry, I honestly didn’t understand what the whole point was.
Just be agile.
Don’t keep banging on about it or doing trainings on it.
In fact, it made zero sense to me that the Agile Industry seemed to focus so much on the separation of roles (as well as an obsession with velocity).
Specifically, separating project management from product management?
How would all the key context not get lost in translation?
The Product Manager works out the why - i.e. what should we build to create user value & how to capture some of that to create business value (revenue).
The Project Manager - or Scrum Master, PO, or whatever title you use for this function - worked out the how.
Yet could you really got a Project Manager to understand that why in practice? On a deep level?
Add to that the need to be genuinely agile - to adapt on the go & work out ways to deliver the why faster, better, easier?
And not something I’ve ever seen work in practice (something that Melissa Perri agrees with me on).
And, if anything, this practice is anti-agile i.e. more likely to slow us down & encourage poor decisions to counter-act the possible benefits of faster execution.
Why The Agile Industry Is Doomed
Fortunately, we aren’t going to need to worry about this problem much longer.
Generative AI is rendering the Agile Industry obsolete.
Think about The Agile Industry’s promise to help teams execute faster.
That involves tasks like collecting requirements, identifying risk, breaking down requirements into manageable tasks, putting them on a roadmap, then communicating this (as well as any changes) as the team works through the roadmap.
Literally ALL of these tasks can be done in seconds.
Trust me, I’ve been experimenting for 3 weeks with ChatGPT & other tools to demonstrate that this is possible. You can even use this Miro template to test out this playbook yourself (or check out our AI Product Management bootcamp here).
So why would you add an unnecessary project management role which only reducing agility (plus adds an extra salary to your payroll)?
And organisations won’t, once they understand how to use AI in their product teams.
By leveraging AI - starting with ChatGPT, but we are seeing a whole host of tools come out every week - you can get all this done within 5-10 minutes.
To go from product goals & a unique value proposition (the why) to a one-pager summary & a roadmap of specific outcomes, key metrics & tasks (the how).
Sure, you’ll need to discuss internally, you’ll probably add things, take some away. But, generally, this takes away the majority of your work when it comes to product planning.
And liberates the Product Manager to take direct control over not just the why, but also the how.
That means no loss of context & an ability to adapt rapidly - an ability, in short, to offer genuine agility.
And to cut out the middle man of Product Owner, project manager, Scrum Master, or whatever title you’ve given to manage execution.