Reality Check: People Hate Agile

 
 

At a party the other night, I got an earful about how much everyone hates Agile.  They violently hate it. They quit their jobs because of it. Get me another glass of wine, this party just got real.

Within the Agile bubble, we believe we’re making the world a better place.  Are we in denial? One of the keys to transformation is getting clear on the current reality.  When we experience cognitive dissonance, we may distort reality to fit our invested energy. Dear Agilist friends, I think we have lost our connection to reality.

“Reality may be different than what you want it to be, or what you expect it to be”, Robert Fritz explains.  If you are resenting reality, you will not have the power to move forward.


“People who have strong beliefs in a conceptual framework of reality often interpret reality to fit their biases” - Robert Fritz

Oh yes, I can hear you citing examples of how you’ve helped teams and organizations, and how much better off they are now.  And some are. Those early adopters are great. But what about the rest?

At this party, I asked for details, “what’s not working?”   They were using Agile for micro-management, doling out tasks, daily standups were 4 hours long, you can probably  imagine the rest. My response was “Well they’re doing it wrong! They are missing the ‘being’! I would never let my clients bastardize Agile like that!”  My defensive response is probably typical of most Agilists. The truth is if most companies are doing it wrong, well then we’re doing something wrong as Agile Leaders.   A little self-reflection might be in order.

“The truth is if most companies are doing Agile wrong, well then we’re doing something wrong as Agile Leaders. “

As Agile moves into the late majority, early adopters are on board and even the early majority.  But now the stodgiest most difficult of companies want agility. What does this mean to the Agile community?  Do we need to change our approach?

Are we in denial of the reality for some organizations?  Yes, some are more ready than others, but we are embarking on the late majority now.  

We can’t coach only when organizations are ready.  I know, Agilists always say “I only coach organizations who are ready for what I have to offer.”  Well wonderful for you, but someone needs to get the rest of them ready. Somehow I’ve always ended up with the problem children.  Progress is slow, it’s frustrating, but they still deserve the opportunity.

Our approach needs to be different.  One of the Agile mantras is ‘meet them where they are.’  I think we may have taken this a little too far when it comes to the late majority.  Meeting them where they are doesn’t mean giving them a heavy-handed process that looks like what they do today, and hoping it will lead to Agility.  ‘Meeting them where they are’ means solving the problems they have, the problems that are putting them at risk, blocking their success and quite frankly, putting them in the late majority.  The approach for the late majority cannot be giving them a process that looks like what they want and keeps them dysfunctional. Tough love folks.

Brain Twist. In true Lean-Agile fashion, I want you to go to Gemba.  Take off your rose-colored glasses. Drop your assumptions.  Go talk to people, who are not your clients, and ask what they think of Agile.  How’s it working for them? Is it making them happier at work? Tell us what you find.