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Is Agile software development still sensible in a complex world?

Agile software development has grown to be a major force in the socio-economic arena of delivering quality software to people on time, on budget, and on spec. (...) The question of where Agile software development practices and techniques make sense, and where are they out of place, is a valid one. It can be addressed by looking at software development as a complex endeavour, and using tools and techniques from the Cynefin method and other models of social complexity.

By J. Pelrine (2011)

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By Harold van Garderen, almost 2 years ago

Hi Frank, the idea that the world is becoming more complex is probably false. For billions of us living actually becomes less complex (read: less uncertainties) as we collectively climb up the Maslow ladder and quite a few of us reach the penthouse. So the question if agile software development is still sensible is IMHO unrelated to the complexity of the world itself.

If we constrain the question to the complexity of software design I think the same conclusions apply. It has - and still gradually becomes - less complex, a sign of progress. Growing interdependence of software systems however bring more uncertainly in the actual application of software in practice. Uncertainties that are impossible to foresee. Hence the move to agile introduction coupled to development. So I really wonder why this link is questioned.

Having worked in a SW development environment for 15 years and knowing the Cynefin model (its not a method) I'm not surprised to read only superficial application of the butterfly stamped exercise in Pelrine's article. If there are any approaches that address the challenges complexity poses in innovation and development I suspect them to be more generically applicable, not just software dev. Can you point out what I missed that places this approach in the centre of attention for this specific domain?

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