It’s hard to have an obsession with #Agile and write about it every week (Agile, not the obsession) without repeating things.
Chiefly because the main message here is a big fat “FFS!”. (And before we go any further I must deplore the demise -please tell me I’m wrong and it’s not dead, just hiding in some members-only-Illuminati-style underground incarnation- of the FFS Tech Conference – what a feast of IQ and passion it was! Read all about it here.)
When it comes to Agile, at times it’s a pleading one and a bargaining one – “Come on, FFS, be reasonable and admit nothing else makes sense” and at other times it’s an exasperated “OH FFS!!! How many times must we show you the same stats and repeat the same arguments which you *know* are true?”.
In between them, the worst kind of “FFS” the torn, disappointed, sad one “Oh no, FFS, you’re faking it”.
This one is the hardest because Agile Fakers are mostly well-intentioned. It’s rare you’ll come across anyone who purposely set out to cargo culture it, to go through the motions with no intention of buying into the concept. Most of the time it is people who would actually even rate their mentality change as high, they’d think they did a lot to alter the way they’ve always thought previously and they’ll be convinced they are anew thinking wise.
And then more heartbreakingly still, there are those who are indeed #Agile but lose their way at times.
From the outside looking in when it comes to the first category, everything from the story of what they’re doing complete with endless stock slides explaining how in phase one they became Agile, in phase 2 they ensured everyone had stand-ups across the enterprise and then in phase 3 they anticipate being able to deliver short 12 months product road maps this half of the year, is utterly shocking, but from the inside, most of these people are convinced they are as #Agile as it comes. “Oh FFS, seriously?” is then the hardest one. Because pointing it out is never straight forward and not mandatorily useful. And in the absence of any utilitarian value it is simply gratuitously cruel to say “umm but where is the customer in this?” or remind them that process in itself is not Agile.
How do you point out to the well-intentioned CTO that “I was gonna let my guys do Agile but they were too slow” is “FFS!” fodder?
How do you stop them every time they say “planning” and “scoping” and “long term projects” and “roadmap” and “fully delivered end product on schedule”?
How do you discourage anyone from guarding the stand-up meetings with their own lives? Or breaking into a rash because the retro is not following some Scrum dictated format? Or being the mindless-lira police with no work on the buy-in?
How do you get around the fact that some will hold the backlog above any and all feedback with the same fixed mentality that would have seen them protect a laboured list of requirements?
How do you stop product owners or scrum masters from rolling their eyes at yet “another pivot when we had a path!”.
How do you tell Agile Superheroes that they still need the daily “Am I straying from the manifesto?” check-up in the mirror?
Surely all questions that Agile coaches everywhere grapple with. They, of all people, must have the highest proportion of “FFS!” moments. The unspeakable horrors they see…
Incidentally, their existence is intrinsically connected to the existence of enough “FFS!”. Once everyone is Agile in their minds and their hearts across the board, coaching will, of course, be superfluous but for now, the amount of hand-holding necessary is staggering. Which is why there are so many. For now. And this “for now” matters because in its absence we simply let go of the “FFS!” and admit defeat. Awesome coaches know this as well – that when it comes to Agile their role ought to be perennial and the good ones I’ve met are perfectly clear on seeing themselves as a temporary stepping stone between the old world of sequential thinking and the new ways of work, not as a permanent fixture to become the consulting shadow organisation of an otherwise failing company.
In fact how about sharing the frustration? Imagine if everyone received one lolly-pop or a half a day off for every genuine “FFS!” moment they could notice and detail in a case study. What honest view of the status quo would we be able to garner then? How much closer would we all be to the core principles of people over process and customer over elaborate guesses?
Here’s the good news though – the more “FFS!” moments we have the closer we are to the real thing so why not use the exasperation to power everyone’s progress and justify obsessive mentions of the fundamentals with ideas such as the mental counter above or the bevvy of thoughts in the proposals for the conference?
How many times should we do that? Find new ways to keep people honest? Be vulnerable enough to speak up when they cargo it? Repeat the core principles? Ad nausea. Till there is no more to roll our eyes at.