It Was Never About “Agile” vs “Waterfall”

Sean McClure
2 min readJan 17, 2024

It’s trendy to demonize Agile now, but those who do just end up falling back to the waterfall so many were revolting against. It’s nothing more than the inevitable restoration attempt that eventually follows a revolution, done by a generation that didn’t live (thus cannot understand) what the revolution meant and why it was so necessary. Today’s youth do it with socialism/capitalism.

The problem is that people think the concepts attached to terms like “Agile” and “Waterfall” belong to software. This is such an obtuse and scientifically illiterate take. There has only ever been one tractable process in the face of complexity and that’s evolution. “Agile”, free markets, fashion trends, culture and language, learning, creativity etc. all evolve based on varied iteration and selection pressure.

Thus, the manifesto was in no way original, but it was necessary. But as with anything natural, man will attempt to contain, codify and standardize it. Agile today is little more than a set of overdetermined “best practices” that are about as suffocating as anything waterfall enforced.

Now that AI will drive the majority of software features, genuine complexity is the meat of what we engineer, and anything other than an uncontaminated evolutionary and adaptive approach will fail.

But rest assured, man will once again look to control and codify, and the labels (“agile” “waterfall” “SAFE” or whatever the next thing is) will make their way into teams where risk is defined in the context of uncertainty rather than its immemorial and true definition; the inability to adapt.

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Sean McClure

Founder Kedion, Ph.D. Computational Chem, builds AI software, studies complexity, host of NonTrivial podcast.