Are you an Agile Imposter?

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“My company says we are Agile but we’re really not. We’re Agile Imposters”

Is your company using Agile terminology but it feels like you are doing things the old way?  Maybe it feels like you’ve layered on a thin Agile veneer, but it’s all waterfall underneath?  What can you do to help move your team in the right direction?

I think it’s key here to remind ourselves that Agile is a set of value and principles.  (  Scrum is a methodology for implementing Agile Values and Principles.  If you can find other ways to live the values and principles, and get the results you want, that’s totally cool.  

A few other things to remember:  Agile is a journey. Agile is not a religion. Agile is not a set of rules to conform to.  If it’s not a set of rules, can you really be an “Imposter”?

Now that we got that out of the way, yes you may be layering Agile on top of old, bad, practices.  When these old practices are hurting your results, you need to dismantle them. These old practices and habits are like the Mandrakes in Harry Potter.  You will need to extract those Mandrakes out of the ground,  but the scream is so loud the sound can kill you.  

Here are some things that have worked for me.

  • Agree to Ban the phrases:  “That’s waterfall” and “That’s not Agile”.
    Throwing around these judgement statements on what’s Agile and what’s not isn’t helpful to anyone, and usually just creates a divide.  When someone uses these phrases, I ask them to be specific, “what about it is waterfall?”  If they can point to a specific practice, we can move into solving. Otherwise we’re just complaining and blaming.

  • Isolate and address the constraint.
    It can feel overwhelming to address all the Agile holes in your team if you are looking for 100% compliance.  Instead try starting with the thing that’s causing your team the most pain and focus on that.  

  • Shine a light on things that are not working.
    The most effective tool you have is the ability to shine a light on things that aren’t working. A Retrospective is a great place to do this. Shining a light moves your team out of coping and into solving.  Once you are in “solving” mode, you can remove old practices that are not working well and add in useful new ones.

    That's what worked for me.  What has worked for you?