Respect the Journey

It seems to be popular sport today in the workplace to throw stones at whether or not people are “Truly Agile”.  Calling people “not really Agile” isn’t going to help them become more Agile. If they are on the journey, help them get to the next level of maturity.  But what if they are truly stuck? Let’s unpack the difference between “low maturity” and “fake” Agile.

Strategic Steps.  Sometimes “improper” Agile is the best route to become Agile.  It’s hard to tell from the outside why strategic steps were chosen, the only way to know is to ask.  “Bad Agile” is a great way to shine a light on dysfunction and spark change. For example, I’ve seen teams that are not fully dedicated.  Outside Agile Coaches cry in horror about these teams not following the Agile rules!  By getting non-dedicated teams working from a backlog and tracking velocity gives the empirical data you need in order to press the organization to form dedicated teams. These strategic steps create a movement which sparks change.  Otherwise, you are pissing into the wind, hoping someone will agree to radical change.

Agile is not only Scrum.  When I hear people say that team is not “really Agile” I think they often mean that the teams are not “Scrum”.  Agile is a set of values of principles. Scrum is one way to be Agile, it’s not the only way. If a team has figured out different practices that support the values and principles, I think that’s great!  

Is it better?  When I see teams doing “bad Agile” I ask them, “Have you seen an improvement?”  If they have, who am I to judge? One of the key principles of Agile is continuous improvement.  If a team has seen improvements let’s honor that. If you have ideas on how they can be even better, I’m sure they would appreciate you sharing that with them.

Cargo Cult Agile.  Agilists refer to “cargo cult Agile” as people who follow the practices but don’t model the values.  For more on why it’s called “Cargo cult” see https://www.extremeuncertainty.com/cargo-cult-agile/.  The problem with cargo cult Agile is that the team is not on a journey, they are stuck blindly going through the motions.  

It’s all a journey.  There is no such thing as a perfect Agile team.  If there was they wouldn’t need continuous improvement, and if they are not engaging in continuous improvement they are not Agile. Let that sink in for a moment.  Let’s change our language from “are you Agile?” to “where are you on the Agile journey?”

How is your team’s journey being received? Let us know!