Agile – The Chicago Way
By De Waal Hoon – Agile Consultant, IQ Business
I was having a discussion with a Development Manager recently about their challenges in delivering software “as promised”, when I was reminded of the 1987 movie The Untouchables starring Sean Connery, Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro to name just a few of the big stars. In one iconic scene, Malone (Sean Connery) explains to Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) how to deal with Al Capone (Robert De Niro) and his cronies “the Chicago way”.
The Development Manager had the unenviable task just that morning, of telling the Executive Committee that his project was behind schedule, and, for that release, already over budget. He also told me that he was very surprised and disappointed when he realised the situation. I was equally surprised when I heard that they were following a Scrum approach. Scrum does, after all, provide all the checks and balances (Sprint Planning, Daily Stand-Up, Sprint Review, face-to-face communication, etc.) to identify issues like these beforehand.
In the Manager’s opinion, the problem was that the developers were not very “honest” in their estimation of effort involved in completing user stories or progress reporting, and consequently, they [he] over-promised and under-delivered. I am putting the word honest in inverted commas because I do not know the team. I don’t know if they understand story points and estimation, whether they have a skilled Scrum Master and Product Owner, or whether the Backlog is populated with user stories that adhere to the INVEST criteria. So… I do not know if they were honest or not.
If you want to be trusted, be honest.
“If I can trust you, I will be honest. If you are honest, I will trust you” – Chicken and egg?
Being trusted is the one thing that we should all aspire towards, not just at work, but also in life. honesty and subsequently transparency and trust are probably the most important aspects that make teams successful. The four values and twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto are all grounded on a foundation of honesty. honesty leads to transparency, which leads to trust. That is why Scrum proposes the constant use of information radiators (burndown charts, a Scrum board, etc.) where everybody can see relevant information. The Scrum ceremonies are centred around honest feedback. As a Scrum team, we say to business, “You can trust us, we have your back!”. In addition, trust is what we all want, because trust leads to the absence of micro-management… that one simple thing that all teams yearn for.
Sometimes, honesty could be easier said than done. Our perception, and more importantly our experience, is often that we are blamed for things going wrong when we are authentic with our feedback. The expressions ‘too much information’ or ‘over-sharing’ come to mind. However, that should never prevent us from being truthful. There are way more ups than downs to an environment based on sincerity. The Agile mindset is grounded in the principle of honesty, and if we want to adopt an Agile way of working, being Honest should be on the top of our list of focus areas. Good Agile training, a knowledgeable Scrum Master, and a dedicated, empowered Product Owner of course also help propel us to success.
Next time this subject comes up, take a moment to remember; in an Agile world we believe in honesty, transparency, and trust when dealing with people, and products…
Honesty, Transparency, and Trust: “The Agile Way”.