We buy the books, read the blogs, look for insights on twitter, hope they will follow us back, and search their names. It may be known as cult of personality, but it is very clear that we are influenced by particular individuals in the Agile community.
Back in 2012, we used a combination of statistics from a number of different sites, Amazon Book Sales (US, UK & EU), the top 200 Agile blogs, Google insight and trend information, Klout data, Twitter numbers and rankings, the top 100 Agile books (which measures reader’s scores), and combined that with a final editorial decision to produce a list of the most influential people in Agile. This list is definitely not meant to be definitive and is posted with both good intentions and with good humour. A lot of data was gathered using Mechnical Turk, and then has been compiled by the editor. As this is an editorial, thus subjective, it represents the opinions of the writer, not the company, nor the scores produced by the Mechanical Turk. We considered over 500 names during the whole process.
I hope you enjoy the list.
20. Henrik Kniberg
One of the few to have books released on the big three (Scrum, Kanban and XP). Henrik Kniberg is popular in Scandinavia. He has recently led the foreign translation of the Agile Manifesto and his books have had more than 500,000 readers
19. James Shore
James believes that great software development teams consistently deliver market success, technical success and personal success for team members and stakeholders. He was an early adopter of Agile development and wrote a best selling book – The Art of Agile Development – which is also a popular blog.
18. Lyssa Adkins
The coaches’ coach. A certified scrum trainer who wrote a best-selling book Coaching Agile Teams. Possibly a surprise entry for some, but with a popular blog, strong book sales and internet searches. Lyssa Adkins makes the list.
17. Israel Gat
The Cutter Consortium Agile Director. Has lead large-scale agile transformation at BMC software and is a self-professed Agile Executive. His book, the Concise Executive Guide to Agile has become a best seller stateside.
16. Jim Highsmith
Jim Highsmith (the third technically), is a winner of the Stevens Prize. Now with Thoughtworks, he acts as a spokesman on their behalf. He has also served as Director of Agile for the Cutter Consortium. He wrote Adaptive Software Development in 1999 where he used mountain climbing to illustrate his points about teamwork, planning and adaption.
15. Roman Pichler
A surprise entrant, but his focus on the Product Owner has increased his influence in the community. With the leading book on the subject and an increasingly popular blog. Roman Pichler makes our list.
Alistair helped write the Agile Manifesto and the Agile Declaration of Interdependence. He invented a set of methods called Crystal and has recently set up the ICAgile Certification. Despite limited success in this space, he continues to be influential within the Agile community.
13. Esther Derby
Esther is well known for her work in helping teams. In particular she is recognised as one of the leading thinkers on retrospectives, and co-authored a book on the subject with Diana Larsen.
12. Scott Ambler
The face of Agile IBM. Scott Ambler has always been controversial in the community for his continued support of unified processes as opposed to the Scrum/XP combination. Scott with his leading role for IBM often has the ear of many large organisations and is also about to release a book on Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD as it is affectionately known).
11. Mary Poppendieck
Mary and her delightful husband Tom, introduced us to the world of Toyota. Still very popular on the circuit, they have recently been talking about design thinking (the next book maybe). Mary started the whole movement of bringing Agile and Lean together.
10. Kent Beck
There are those who will be very critical of Kent Beck’s position. He drives a hard-core fan base, but the reality is that XP seems to be unfashionable today compared to other Agile methods. Kent Beck has a highly popular twitter account, but despite two excellent books, he was not on the best-seller list provided by Amazon.
The second founder of Scrum. Jeff Sutherland continues to promote hyper productivity at conferences and the beauty of 30 day software. As Jeff points out on his blog, interest in agile scrum continues to grow, and it is still the main Agile approach for software development teams today. Jeff has never really been a writer of books, but has two coming out, which if they sell well, may improve his position.
8. Craig Larman
A surprise high entrant. Craig has three titles, which all sell reasonably well which drives his influence. Still one of the leading authors on how to scale Agile.
7. Ron Jeffries
One of the three founder of Extreme Programming, and though Kent Beck typically gets more credit, most people name the practices as listed by Ron Jeffries. Still active in the community today, he has a very popular blog.
A bigger name in Europe than America. Jurgen Appelo has taken the market by storm with his Management 3.0 book about complexity. Has recently been an advocate of the Stoos movement and Agile Lean Europe. He has also released a book called How to change the world. He is one of the few ‘new guard’ to make the list and so it may be worth reading.
David Anderson is the father of software Kanban. Though he scores considerably lower (book sales for example) than I expected, one cannot ignore the impact he has had on the community through Kanban. He has recently launched accreditation and is the chairman of the Lean SSC.
Over 40,000 twitter followers (making him the most popular in the Agile community) and a hard-core fan base makes Martin Fowler a key influential member of the community. Having spent most of his career at Thoughtworks, he continues to be a strong advocate for refactoring.
Highly influential on the development community. He has several books in the bestsellers list, often years after their release and is very popular on twitter. Uncle Bob as he is known has been a software professional since 1970 and initiated the meeting which led to the Agile Manifesto.
2. Ken Schwaber
Even with Scrum’s market share under attack from those choosing to use Kanban, the highly criticised Scrum Master program, which Ken has replicated and the controversial resignation (technically caused by a bicycle accident) from the Scrum Alliance. Ken still remains very popular. Behind the original invention of Scrum, he still resonates with a large proportion of the community.
1. Mike Cohn
Well, somebody has to be number one. It was a surprise to me that the clear winner is not responsible for the leading Scrum or Kanban approaches. Mike Cohn, the Scrum Alliance Chairman, author of multiple leading books on the subject has been awarded first place. In almost every category, Mike Cohn’s name appeared in the top 10, and almost always in first or second position. Congratulations Mike.
Many of the names above continue to be influencers in the way agile is adopted, but over the last few years, a few new dominant influencers have appeared. Instead of re-cutting the whole list, we thought it was worthwhile adding these people. All of these names have contributed to the VFQ body of knowledge, the courses behind the BCS Agile Practitioner Certification and many others.
Famous for the Business Model Canvas and the Value Proposition Canvas. His work appears a lot in companies trying to figure out new business models or think through value propositions as they look to become more customer-focused. All of the concepts fit well with the lean-startup movement, and often goes hand-in-hand with agile team implementations.
Eric has brought the Lean Startup movement into the C-Suite through his book. His work has appeared a lot in Harvard Business Review which has lent credibility for Enterprises to try the things that startups do. Eric’s work built upon concepts first popularised by Steve Blank which explored deeply how to develop customers during a product development process. It very much lived the spirit of Agile.
Whatever you think about the Scaled Agile Framework, over the last few years it’s dominated the Enterprise agile arena – at the time of writing it’s on it’s 4th major version. Many of the other names on the list above might not believe a scaling framework leads to the outcome of ‘Being Agile’, but SAFe has definitely found a market for the message. Dean is the creator, and has had a last influence on the subject of Agile.
Don Reinertsen brought to life the terms Cost-of-Delay and WSJF that have found their way into the Agile community. His work is deep, thorough and well-considered. It’s probably the most complete body of knowledge that shows the inherent problems with the way projects work and why product development needs to be done in very different ways.
Out of all the new people added, Jez is the closest to the original Agile origins and the software roots (which shows that agile has become more than just software!). Jez has helped popularize the DevOps movement, he’s written books about the Lean Enterprise and he’s helped everyone understand Continuous Delivery. He’s also built tools for developers to achieve the things he writes about in his books. His contribution to modern-day software engineering is impressive.
Steve has brought Agile to managers in a big way. He’s written a lot about how the principles of agile are the key to longer-term success in business today. He is a popular writer on Forbes with many articles and millions of views, and he’s even contributed on this site.
If you’ve got this far you will realise this is the second time Henrik appeared on the list. We didn’t want to change the original post as it’s a good overview of how the Agile movement got popularised. Henrik is probably the one name from the original list that has gone on to have an even bigger impact. His Product Owner in a nutshell video is used a lot to explain how agile works within a business. His work with Spotify has become followed and copied all over the world. The Spotify model is desired and the videos are shared often. That said, he understands and recognizes you can’t just replicate the model, you need to discover what works in each context. He even goes as far to say that the model doesn’t always even work in Spotify.