Agile is S@#*! Five Tips to Keep Your Shoes Clean
By Annalinde Singh – Agile Consultant, IQ Business
Every so often, I find myself thinking about this comment passed by a Product Owner I worked with previously. I was incredibly passionate about our vision, and it was crucial to me for our team to succeed. Over time, he became increasingly frustrated by what he felt was snail’s pace progress, and in his view, there was likely no scapegoat present except Agile.
As the face of ‘The Agile’ in our engagement, I got an earful on more than one occasion, about how Agile stifles creativity and dumbs work down, and eventually, the classic line, “Agile is $@*!”
- Remember that Agile is a mindset
Perhaps this is obvious, but maybe we should point out that being agile is a mindset. It is not a tool, a framework, or a methodology. You cannot ‘roll it out’, or somehow package it, deliver it, or install it in a person, a team, or a company, or any other group of people. It is the way you think, and the way you do things.
There’s no ON-OFF switch.
I think we are going about things a little bit back-to-front. With best intentions, organisations send people on training, hire Scrum Masters or Agile Coaches, and sometimes even hand accountability back to their teams. Sadly, we regularly leave a gaping chasm between teams and upper management.
- Get the big guns on board first
There tends to be a major gap around senior-level buy-in, and progress measures and company policies being misaligned with an Agile way of work. I often see teams left out of the discovery around why we are keen to work in a specific way. These have the potential to cripple teams of well-meaning, capable people, by constantly blocking their progress.
- Know that we are not servers (or trucks, or resources)
We forget that we are working among people, not machines.
We overlook that anxious people cannot put their all into their work.
We disregard emotion.
If we keep people involved in the process, hear their ideas and concerns, and communicate constantly, we are setting ourselves up for long-term success.
- Focus on creating a supportive environment
Becoming Agile is an organic process of growth; we plant seeds, and need to foster an environment conducive to exploration and progress.
We need to provide enablers and sufficient time to witness the resulting improvement in work practices and delivery. It’s as if we’re all sprinters (excuse the Scrum pun…); we have great technique, excellent physique, top-of-the-range running shoes, and we’ve put in the time and effort necessary to be champions.
Then we get off the starting blocks with our shoelaces tied together. This is not even vaguely an Agile mindset. This is merely ‘Agile’ – since we haven’t properly managed change, and we haven’t empowered our teams.
If eventually, we do get going, we look down, realise that we’ve stepped in something – and there it is; colourful, and pretty, but this sort of ‘Agile’ is, indeed, $@#*!
- Be your own hero
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
In the end, we need to be bold; perhaps sidestepping myths we’re frequently told.
There is no Agile Hero, no easy fix, no standard recipe on this path towards empowering high-performance, self-organising teams. It is genuinely hard work, and we have to be consistent and brave in our efforts.