Can we please stop imposing agile?

When imposing agile it means that others decide whether you work agile or not.

Often I am asked to help a client who can’t understand why managers can’t just ask their employees to start ‘thinking agile’ against their will.

I wonder why?


Scaling agile is the new fad.

Unfortunately imposing (forcing) agile on teams has grown in parallel with scaling.

But the idea of scaling is not the problem.

Early warning in 2006

13 years ago in 2006 Martin Fowler gave us an early warning about imposing agile and he reminded us about the importance of self organizing teams. Maybe it was already too late, but let’s hope not – see  Agileimposition

Have we unconsciously sold the ‘soul’ of agile by silently accepting ‘agile’ to become an industry in itself where imposition has become the norm? Agile is now BIG business.

More warnings in 2016

Many others are spreading the word these years (see Daniel Mezick’s addition to The Agile Imposition and his Hall of Fame  – thank you @Daniel Mezick for encouraging me to do the same. I will do my best to live up to that.

As said, scaling is not the problem. Introducing agile is not the problem.

The problem is…

It is the implementation approaches without an Engagement Model that is the problem:

The solution is…

We invite everyone to actively engage in the agile transformations from the very begining. Everyone!

And a ‘no thank you’ should be okay.

Ref. @Daniel Mezick

“The Agile space is now a “no-innovation zone.” It tolerates and in fact perpetuates a highly weaponized version of Agile. Coercion, command-and-control, force, and the routine mandating of specific practices are how this game is played. The Agile Industrial Complex perpetuates and then monetizes a culture of coercion and force.”

So, there is an alternative to imposition: The invitation.

Opt-in Engagement Models* exist. Some are even Open Source.

According to the well known 2017 Gallup report on employee engagement the average engagement among employees worldwide is as low as 15% .

I agree with @Doug Kirkpatrick (e.g. in “Beyond Empowerment”) that no-one should ever use coercion against other people, and we should keep the commitment we give to each other.

Let’s start *not* doing impositions today.

Especially in the agile industry where things are starting to get out of hand in my opinion.

I hereby invite you to please help with not imposing agile. It has to be opt-in, by accepting invitations.

Please spread the word?

*) Engagement Model examples are Open Space Agility (Daniel Mezick) and Agendashift (Mike Burrows)

An Engagement Model is any pattern or set of patterns, reducible to practice, which result in more employee engagement, especially during the implementation of an organization-change initiative (Daniel Mezick 2019: Inviting Leadership, p. 184).

I Shared this post on LinkedIn May-25-2019, and Danie Meazick kindly backed me up with this enlightning comment:

Most of the improvement from agile comes from teams that are making decisions that affect their work. If they are not choosing an agile approach in the first place, what good can come from that?  They are not “in” on the decision.  A decision mandated from the outside of the team is called an imposition. While it is OK and in fact necessary to impose some ground rules, it is folly and it is truly harmful to impose most decisions on teams. Doing so simply irritates your best people, who will exit to work for competition. Is that what you want? Those who remain will not and cannot engage, because everything is decided by others….so why bother caring?  We need more people speaking up and telling it like it is, as Leise is doing here.


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