Stop Agile Shaming Me

About 18–20 months ago, my company (a small web design & development shop) started down the road of transitioning to Agile methodologies. We had been “waterfall” for years and felt that many of the ideas and ceremonies prescribed by SCRUM and KANBAN would suit us better. So off we went.

We watched videos, we read blogs, we talked to other companies who purported to be agile already. Once we though thought we grasped one of the many Agile concepts, we’d try to work it into our routine. Standups, sprints, retrospectives; Most of the ideas behind Agile are so simple, so pure. At times, I felt like “Duh, of course we should be doing this, it makes so much sense!”

But Agile isn’t simple. Agile is HARD. You don’t just wake up one day and command your team “Go Agile”. So we struggled. We still struggle.

And when we struggle, I spend extra time and energy trying to figure out why. To seek out some magical advice that will set us back on the right course. Surely we are just missing one simple ingredient for this “Agile thing” to start firing on all cylinders. So I read more blogs, watch more videos.

Eventually, I came upon a few Twitter accounts and blogs devoted to Agile I had never seen before. But these weren’t giving advice. No, these were just mocking everyone who was getting some aspect of Agile wrong.

And they were doing it in a way that said to me “Not only are we mocking you for doing it wrong, but we’re not going to tell you how to do it right. If you aren’t smart enough to do it right, then you don’t deserve to know. We’re keeping that bit for ourselves. Now fuck off.

This started to eat at me.

Unless I misunderstood, the spirit of the Agile Manifesto was one of constant self-improvement, of better ways to communicate, to push our industry forward. Not to mock and shame the newbies who aspire to improve their process and to make better, cooler stuff. It seemed a direct contradiction.

I realized that despite my team’s struggles, the people running these Agile Fail Meme (for lack of a better term) sites and Twitter accounts understood less about Agile than we did. They did not seek to find better ways to build better software or collaborate with customers. Nor were they interested in helping others or improving themselves. We were the ones trying to get better because we were still seeking the answer. The “mockers” had given up and settled for making fun of a process they were failing at. They were avoiding the hard work required to get better and master Agile principles.

Our team still struggles but are getting the hang of many of the principles and ceremonies. But we have what may be the most important predictor of success; A team who is still finding the energy and the willpower to get their heads around this stuff. To practice, to analyze, to experiment.

Why? Because we want to get better at our craft. Because we care about our work and our clients. Nobody has given up and resigned themselves to just mocking that which they do not yet understand. And I hope they never do.

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