The Agile Police

Gratuitous clip art so that Medium has a preview image.

Seriously. Sometimes I need to step out of the Agile echo chamber.

We (me included) go and on about extending agility to the the “whole organization”, but do a terrible job at communicating to non-developers. And then, to top it off, we blame “waterfall thinking outside of teams” on why [some effort] failed to produce meaningful results. Kind of circular, huh?

We talk about Agile (and defend Agile) in ways that we would instantly recognize as unproductive and destined to fail if we observed those behaviors on teams and organizations. In fact, it smacks of the behavior we constantly deride in toxic senior leaders, managers, etc.

Granted, these are (mostly) conversations between the already converted. Echoes in the echo chamber. But people “from the outside” notice and learn from these conversations. They see quibbling and aggressiveness. It’s bad PR. And bad service design.

We are (and embarrassingly I am, at times) conveying ….

You’re not Agile. It smells bad. You just don’t get it. Your antiquated business practices are incompatible with an agile approach. You’re too far gone. No Agile team works that way. You’re abusing [some term]. You’re abusing [some practice]. You don’t trust anyone. SAFe can’t save you! Back in the day we didn’t need this stinking process. You are petty. You are a bean counter. Why can’t you evolve?

I do think it is important to communicate an “authentic” Agile message… one distinct from the message of the Agile Industrial Complex. And I do believe strongly that new ideas are possible, and support efforts like Joshua Kerievsky’s Modern Agile thing. But, we need to consider the onboarding and UX of our message. Because it will — almost by definition — be a little flakier and less concrete than the 50 page SAFe RFPs.

Anyway. My resolution is to be more empathetic, and to appreciate just how counter-intuitive some of our “ways” must appear to smart people without a background in organizations that made it work.

Show more. Listen more. Tell less. Police less.

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