Anybody who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something
I’m spending the whole week here in Salt Lake City; attending the Agile 2011 Conference.
Earlier this week, Agile veterans Ron Jeffries and Chet Hendrickson held a session on what they thought they got right and what they thought they got wrong over the last decade.
I’m taking the liberty today to cherry-pick and to comment on two of Chet and Ron’s assessments regarding the things that did not go so well since 2001.
Yes, there is still a fair amount of Agile practitioners around who will religiously apply each and every principles of the Scrum Guide without having a deep understanding of what it really means, nor will they prove to have real-life experience from the field deploying Agile values and principles.
New people embracing Agility seem to frequently fall into that trap; coaching others at learning Agility like following a recipe cookbook.
Moreover, some experienced Agile practitioners clearly never came out of this paradigm. Hiding themselves behind dogmatism and religious behavior brings fear, ignorance, and inexperience to people willing to get the best out of Agility.
Besides material available on the web, from trainings, to books and the likes, I do believe a good Agile coach must be able to clearly demonstrate to his partners (usually called customers) the following top 5 core competencies;
- Proven management experience at navigating inside complex organizational cultures, systems and politics
- Exceptional listening skills
- Ability to think outside the box; Agility being one box
- Proven track record in having positively coached people on Agility
- A genuine dedication towards delighting customers (I do recommend the following Agile 2011 conference blog post by my colleague Martin Proulx)
Bottom line, being dogmatic and following step-by-step guidelines can be comfortable for many reasons. One of them can be the silver bullet syndrome that solves every possible issues faced by an organization in one monolithic state of mind and rigid framework.
I do personally think serious coaches needs to be fully inclined at mastering the above top 5 competencies if they really want their partners to be not only satisfied, but totally delighted!
Agile is not the answer to everything
Taking a step back and looking at why organizations are moving towards Agile, we can observe a heavy trend emerging from Agile practices on the field.
In an attempt to achieve all the benefits promised by Agility, some ‘agilists’ have started to accommodate or to modify quite substantially the Agile framework.
Out of the many reasons why one would be inclined to do so, there is one particular frightening motivation that caught my attention.
Let’s turn that toaster into a dishwasher… both are kitchen appliances aren’t they?
Applying Agile values and principles inside an organization is a challenge by itself. It requires a lot of skills, efforts and commitments from all parties involved. Most of the times, the Agile adoption cycle will expose many caveats and pitfalls for which the framework has not been designed to address at all.
In such circumstances, we do see Agile coaches, scrum masters, trainers and product owners distorting their practices so they can extend and reach out areas of the organization for which Agility is simply not the best answer (a toaster is a toaster).
If you’re really into turning your partners into Agile organizations focused on totally delighting their customers, you may consider the followings:
- Agile’s framework doesn’t answer all your needs for doing so
- Instead of turning Agile into something it isn’t, ask for help and complement with other approaches based on your needs
- Using traditional management approaches and tools is not a sin. If it fits the purpose, why reinvent something new for that is the same things?
A good example on expanding your mindset by complementing your Agile practices with better-suited approaches is covered in my colleague’s most recent post from the Agile 2011 Conference.
In his blog entry, Martin comments on an inspiring presentation by Steve Denning on Making the Entire Organization Agile. I do recommend the read!