Agility is a widely adopted concept in the software development industry, offering benefits such as flexibility, efficiency, and collaboration. However, it is important to recognize that sometimes agility is used abusively or even detrimentally against developers.

In this article, we will explore the concept of “bullshit” surrounding agility, shedding light on questionable practices and providing advice on how to avoid them.

The False Promises of Agility

Agility is often presented as a miracle solution, promising quick results, improved collaboration, and increased satisfaction among team members. However, it is crucial to adopt a critical perspective and recognize the false promises that can accompany agility.

Critically Analyzing the Often Exaggerated Promises of Agility

One of the main false promises is the guarantee of rapid and frequent delivery of features. While agility promotes iterative and incremental delivery, it is essential to understand that constraints may arise. Unforeseen obstacles, external dependencies, or technical difficulties can slow down the pace of delivery. Teams can become frustrated and disappointed when the promises of continuous delivery are not fulfilled.

Another false promise of agility is that of harmonious collaboration within the team. The underlying idea is that a self-organized and multidisciplinary team will work seamlessly and transparently. However, the reality can be different, with conflicts of interest, differences in priorities, and communication challenges. Employees can feel overwhelmed by endless meetings and frustrated by the lack of clarity and coordination.

Moreover, agility is often presented as a magical solution to meet all stakeholders’ needs. This can lead to unrealistic expectations and increased pressure on developers to deliver quick results. When these expectations are not managed realistically, employees can feel overwhelmed and overworked, leading to burnout and decreased motivation.

The Importance of Transparency and Honest Communication

It is therefore crucial to promote transparency and honest communication from the start, highlighting the realities and challenges that Agile teams may face. Exaggerated promises should be avoided, and realistic expectation management should be put in place. It is also important to provide adequate support to developers, giving them the necessary resources to cope with difficulties and recognizing their successes and efforts.

Agility should be perceived as a means to improve work practices, acknowledging both its advantages and limitations, and ensuring that developers are not exploited in its name.

The Tyranny of Velocity

One of the common pitfalls of agility is the excessive focus on velocity at the expense of work quality and employee well-being. In many Agile environments, velocity has become a standalone objective, closely measured and monitored. This creates constant pressure on teams to increase their velocity, disregarding other important aspects of software development.

How Velocity Becomes an End Goal, Sacrificing Quality

When velocity becomes the ultimate priority, employees may be incentivized to take shortcuts, sacrifice quality, and overlook good development practices. Rigorous testing, thorough code review, and validation processes can be neglected as they might slow down velocity. This approach jeopardizes product stability, user experience, and customer satisfaction.

Moreover, the constant pressure to increase velocity can have detrimental effects on employee well-being. Team members can feel stressed and overloaded, leading to burnout and decreased motivation. Agility, which should foster collaboration and autonomy, can quickly turn into a toxic environment where employees constantly feel pressured to meet unrealistic velocity targets.

The Importance of Balancing Velocity and Quality

To avoid the tyranny of velocity, it is crucial to establish a balance between velocity and quality. Emphasis should be placed on delivering high-quality features rather than mere quantity. Teams should be encouraged to take the necessary time to perform tasks correctly, adhering to good development practices. It is also crucial to foster a work environment that takes into account employee well-being, avoiding work overload and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Furthermore, in some Agile teams, it is even common not to measure velocity at all. Other factors such as customer satisfaction, product quality, and team health are taken into account. By adopting a thoughtful approach to agility, we can mitigate the detrimental effects of velocity and create a healthier and more effective work environment.

The Illusion of Autonomy

Agility is often presented as a means to provide teams with greater autonomy. However, it is all too common for this autonomy to be an illusion, masking micromanagement practices that go against the Agile spirit.

How Agility can be Used to Mask Micromanagement Practices

In many cases, Agile teams are assigned specific goals and tasks, only to be subjected to strict directives on how they should be carried out. Team members may find themselves with little room for decision-making and exercising their creativity. This approach limits their actual autonomy and reduces them to mere task executors.

When employees do not feel truly autonomous, their motivation and commitment can suffer. They may feel disempowered in their work and lack accountability, which hinders their professional growth. Autonomy is one of the pillars of intrinsic motivation, and depriving employees of it can lead to decreased productivity and job satisfaction.

How to Foster Genuine Autonomy in Agile Teams

To promote genuine autonomy in Agile teams, it is essential to establish an environment of trust. Managers and leaders must demonstrate transparency and open communication, explaining goals and expectations while allowing teams the freedom to choose how to achieve them. It is important to create a space where team members can express their ideas, take initiatives, and make their own decisions.

Moreover, managers should adopt a servant leadership approach, supporting team members rather than exerting authoritative control. They should encourage collaboration, foster learning, and provide opportunities for professional development. By empowering employees to grow and actively contribute to the team’s success, real autonomy can be nurtured.

However, it is important to recognize that autonomy does not mean lack of accountability. Teams should always be responsible for their results and commitments to stakeholders. However, this responsibility should be balanced with the trust and freedom granted to team members to make decisions and shape their work.

Exploiting Agility to Justify Excessive Working Hours

Agility, when misunderstood or misapplied, can be exploited to justify excessive working hours and a constant expectation of availability. Under the pretext of quickly responding to changing project needs, some organizations adopt an “always-on” mentality that keeps employees in a perpetual state of work.

The Dangers of “Always-On” Agility and the Expectation of Permanent Availability

This expectation of permanent availability can have detrimental effects on employees’ mental and physical health. It can lead to burnout, an imbalance between work and personal life, as well as deteriorating interpersonal relationships and overall quality of life. Employees constantly feel pressured to immediately respond to demands, even outside scheduled working hours.

It is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance, even in an Agile environment. This requires establishing clear boundaries in terms of working hours and availability. Employees should be encouraged to disconnect and rest to maintain their well-being and long-term productivity.

How to Establish Clear Boundaries to Prevent Burnout

This is the essential role of managers. They ensure the value of balance and respect for boundaries. They accept flexible working hours that take into account the workload peaks the team has experienced and refrain from sending messages or requests outside of those times. They actively encourage breaks and recovery periods.

This approach ensures full team commitment during workload surges and the full involvement of each team member when necessary.

Managerial Disengagement through Agility

Agility, when misunderstood or improperly implemented, can lead to managerial disengagement. Instead of taking on their management and leadership responsibilities, some managers may use agility as an excuse to avoid obligations and decision-making.

How Agility can be Used to Avoid Managerial Responsibilities

In some cases, managers may hide behind Agile principles to avoid making difficult decisions or confronting problems. They may transfer the responsibility onto the teams, leaving them to fend for themselves without providing the necessary guidance and support. This creates an environment where teams feel abandoned, and communication and collaboration are hindered.

When managers disengage, it has consequences on team effectiveness and employees’ professional development. Team members may lack clear direction, constructive feedback, and growth opportunities. They may also feel a lack of trust in their managers, which affects collaboration and individual commitment.

The Importance of Genuine Agile Management and Engaged Leadership

To prevent this disengagement of managers, it is crucial to promote genuine Agile management and engaged leadership. Managers should be encouraged to take on their management responsibilities and play an active role in the team’s success. This involves providing a clear vision, setting goals, and defining realistic expectations for team members.

Furthermore, managers should actively support team members by providing regular and constructive feedback, assisting in problem-solving, and guiding their professional development. They should also be open to communication and collaboration, creating an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns and ideas.

It is also important for managers to recognize and take responsibility for their mistakes. Agility encourages learning and continuous improvement, and managers should lead by example by admitting their mistakes and using them as learning opportunities for the team.


It is crucial to recognize the abuses and “bullshit” that can accompany agility in work environments. By shedding light on these questionable practices, we can work towards a more responsible and ethical implementation of agility, ensuring the well-being of employees while leveraging its real benefits. Let us remember that agility should be a means to improve our work and lives, and not a tool to exploit employees.

Jean-Jerome Levy

Written by

Jean-Jerome Levy

DevOps Consultant

Seasoned professional in the field of information technology, I bring over 20 years of experience from working within major corporate IT departments. My diverse expertise has played a pivotal role in a myriad of projects, marked by the implementation of innovative DevOps practices.