In Learning

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.

We have 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. However, if you are sure your name should be on the list – please mail me in confidence.

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.

14. Alistair Cockburn

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.

9. Jeff Sutherland

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.

6. Jurgen Appelo

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.

5. David Anderson

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.

4. Martin Fowler

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.

3. Uncle Bob Martin

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.

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Showing 27 comments
  • ValueFlowQuality

    There are always those who you think in hindsight should be on the list like Eric Ries – but he maybe more influential in the startup space than Agile per se.

    • Yves Hanoulle

      agh, I did not see you mentioned Eric already. I think Eric is important in the agile community also. LeanStartup is one of the many fields were agile is growing. 

  • Yves Hanoulle

    Thanks for this great list.

    I have a few additions, they might not show up in the numbers, but in my opnion, all these people have a huge influence on the agile community and were it is going. 

    – Naresh Jain for everything he does in agile India (and founding agile coach camp with Deborah Hartman)
    – Kenji Hiranabe for making agile visibble in Japan
    – Laurent Bossavit doing the ground work of promoting agile in France
    – Vera Peeters & Pascal Van Cauwenberg for creating the first agile game (the xp game) and promoting agile in the benelux (Europe)
    – Luke Hohnman for creating Innovation games and the huge impact it has in the community.
    – Jean Tabaka making coaches think about facilitation 
    – Jerry weinberg for influencing almost all (past, current & future) influencers in the agile community,
    – Lisa Crispin for giving testers a voice in the community. 
    – Brian Marick for everything he does in the testing community (Testing quadrant) and starting The Gordon PaskAward, which gave newbies a voice in the community.
    – Johanna Rothman for bringing the manager (& Project portfolio) in the picture
    – Patrick Debois for naming and thus making the Devops community visible
    – Bob Marshall for the whole rightshifting movement and going against corporate agility.
    – Chris Matts for Real Options
    – Liz Keogh & Dan North for BDD
    – Gojko Adzic: for his work with executable testing bridging customers and developers
    – Cory Haines for Code Retreat 
    – Eric Ries: lean Startups
    – Bjarte Bognes: for bring agile idea’s in to higher management (Beyond budgetting)

    • ValueFlowQuality

      Thanks Yves, Most of these people were in my longer list and once my data is tidy, I will release that also.

      I may also if I tidy up the rankings more, extend beyond the 20 people here.

      • Yves Hanoulle

        I’m looking forward to that list. 

        I think we need both kind of lists. Lists that are showing who are number wise the people listen to. Yet, if Zulma WF communicates with these 20 people on a weekly basis, and they listen to what she says, then she is actually a bigger influence then any of these 20 people.
        F ew: I doubt if there was anyone on your list who read less then 2 books of Jerry Weinberg.

        That said, agile is a community of people with a similar mindset. That fact that it’s so easy to find a few hundred people worth mentioning, is what makes our community so strong.

        • ojuncu

          I love the example of Zulma FW : asubtle difference that may lye between influencer  and mendtor, thinker, example.. Siraj Sirajuddin is an example of influencer. top 20 or not, still an influencer as I perceive his contribution to spread  collective intelligence .

  • jurgenappelo

    Thanks for this list! But please fix the misspelling of the names of Alistair Cockburn and Israel Gat.

    • ValueFlowQuality

      Corrected, thanks for the feedback. That’s what happens when you finish the blog late at night.

  • Peter Saddington

    nice. love it. thanks for mentioning us!

  • Lisa Crispin

    Someone pointed out to me that Ward Cunningham isn’t on this list. Maybe he has a list all to himself?

    • Dan Rough

      Hi Lisa,

      I saw the source data for the list today and while I can’t remember too many specifics, I know there were points awarded points, among other things, for: significant contributions to software development (for which Ward would of course score very highly), book rank (both Europe and U.S.), twitter followers and Klout score – all of the data was collected using Mechanical Turk – there was an element of subjectivity to it, as there is with any list, but that was kept to a minimum.

      I can’t remember seeing Ward in the top 30, maybe even 40. As Yves pointed out earlier, there are definitely people that would appear on other lists less grounded in mechanical generation routines.

      When Paul, the author, has cleaned up the data I know that he is going to post it for everybody to have a look at.


    • Yves Hanoulle

      Oh, yes. For influence well beyond the agile community. For creating the tool, that allows the world to have an opensource knowlegde platform (wiki)

  • Khan Klatt

    I’ll add a few that have personally influenced me. They may not be well known beyond the circles they operate in, but they add a lot of value in whatever circle they’re in:
    1. Alan Shalloway
    2. Chris Sterling
    3. Skip Angel
    4. Timothy Lister 

  • erik petersen

    I’d like to suggest you add an extra data source, the Gordon Pask award for contributions to the Agile community.

    Of the 15 people awarded, only Jim Shore makes your list. I’d say that shows a downside to your data collection method. I’m not saying they should be in the top 20, it should be a criteria in your ranking.  I’ve personally found sometimes there is an inverse relationship between number of books published and actual influence, just saying……
    cheers, Erik
    Melbourne, Australia

    • ValueFlowQuality

      The Gordan Pask award was considered in the original criteria, as was other notable achievements.

      It is agreed that book sales would not be enough by themselves, but they represented only about 20% of the final score produced. A significant scoring factor was based on Google information, something which should apply to many spheres of differing types of influence.

      In pulling together the list, I tried to rely on what I would regard as all reliable sources, in which fair comparison could be achieved.

      Thanks Erik

  • PaulOldfield1

    What I’d really like to see is the list you get when you compile the results from asking the top 20 who *they* think are the top 20.  

  • Mark Levison

    As I’ve already mentioned even with the good intentions I think this list a bad idea. I think it continues to promote the hero culture (of which we need less). In attempt to counter this I’ve created: – come provide suggestions for people we need to hear more from.

  • Mark Mansour

    We’ve taken inspiration from your article and put together the 10 Agile Bloggers You Should Know About, But Don’t [ ].  

  • tushar

    Hi, thank you for this post It very nice list I like Ken Schwaber in this 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

  • Martin Lois

    Nice post.

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