This post first started as I was discussing my post “You Aren’t Doing Scrum If …” with a friend who had read the post and was worried that I might not fit in an organization that wasn’t doing all of Scrum. I’ve since had other conversations and as I’ve reflected on the topic, I still stand by my original post, because there are some fundamental properties of Scrum that you have to implement in order to follow that methodology. This is why I called the post “You Aren’t Doing Scrum If …” and not “You Aren’t Doing Agile If …”
But Agile is different. Agile isn’t a process. Agile is a mindset. So you can call yourself “Agile” without necessarily implementing any particular methodology because “Agile” isn’t about process. Agile is about the collective state of mind of the team. The organization as a whole. Being Agile means that you are open to change. That you embrace change. Agile is about being flexible. About knowing that you don’t know and that you don’t know what you don’t know. Agile is about adapting. Ultimately, it is about finding ways of being more productive. In fact, you could implement scrum precisely, which I doubt anyone really does, and not be Agile.
In fact, my experience has been that as I try to move an organization along the sliding scale of being more productive, I will, eventually, find a point of resistance. The sacred cow of their process. You can change whatever else you want, and yes, everything else you’ve suggested that we change has proven itself to be a better, more productive, less error prone way of doing what we do. But, you can’t change our sacred cow. And so far every organization I’ve been in has some sacred cow that we either have to kill or we don’t progress further into being agile. And so we end up hearing comments from people in the industry like, “I don’t think I’ve been in any organization that has been TOTALLY ‘Agile.’” because every organization eventually runs up against some sacred cow on their road toward being agile.
I know of another guy in the industry that postulates that the reason organizations fail as they try to implement agile is because agile is being forced on the organization. That we need to create an environment where people have opted in to agile. And to a certain extent, I think he’s right. But, and I think this is a HUGE but, I think the larger problem is that the leadership has not embraced being agile and so you end up with developers trying to BE agile while the leadership is trying to be predictive. Funny thing I’ve noticed about most employees, they’ll pretty much do whatever they think will keep the paychecks flowing. So I don’t think we need opt-in at the worker bee level so much as we need opt-in at the leadership level. Although I have seen resistance at both levels.
Finally, while your organization may not be agile at all. It may not do Scrum, or Kanban. It may resist all attempts to move in that direction. This is not excuse for you to not be agile. You should ask yourself periodically, “What can I do that might be more productive than what I am currently doing?” Because an organization can only be as agile as the people working in that organization and sometimes, all it really takes to move an organization closer to being agile is one individual who is willing to do what he or she does just a little more toward agile than they currently are. What sacred cows have you run into? What are you doing to be more agile as an individual? Leave a comment below.