Kinda Sorta Agile

“It’s a definite maybe.” My father used to say of the impending real estate deals he brokered.

“We’ll see.” Was my mother’s way of telling me probably not.

Some things in life are like that. Lots of wiggle room to evade commitment. If you’re not careful, Agile adoption in your organization can be like that, too.

Being all in, as discussed in the Agile Ice Bucket Challenge blog, is critical to your Agile adoption and sustaining it. Mindset shifts are difficult and dynamic. So you desire to be all in, you feel like you’re all in…but…are you all in?

If you’re not all in, Agile adoption will limp along, at best. You will have even more disengaged employees and leaders than before you began Kinda-Sorta Agile. They were jazzed to work differently, committed to the training, but then things slowed down when they returned from training. Other people in the organization didn’t know what Agile meant. There ended up being so many giant impediments, that the once-jazzed employees are now frustrated and alienated. Why were we set up to fail?

We can’t get into all the squishiness here, but I offer you three symptoms of Kinda Sorta Agile to watch for. Keep an open mind as you read. Think of each symptom below as a fever; it could mean any number of things, including fighting the good fight.


Some Agile is Better than no Agile

Implementing some Agile can be a good thing. You want to experiment. You want a bottom up implementation with top down support. You absolutely can do this, if you have a lot of support and commitment. But don’t mistake permission or encouragement to “run with it” for commitment.  You might be stepping into a Kinda Sorta Agile situation.

Some Agile is not okay if you don’t have sponsors who are committed and all in. Peripheral, noncommittal engagement at the top will only get you so far.

Some Agile is not going to work if you purposefully skip training for your leaders or your team. Or maybe you pick the two day scrum training, instead of the five day training? It just worked out better for everyone’s schedules.

You Think You get it, but You Don’t

Leaders and teams of all ages and experiences need to be careful for this one. You may have attended the training, read the books, and lived through countless Agile ceremonies. Yet your participation does not mean you’ve adopted the mindset. Recovering from a command-and-control environment ain’t easy. Á la Jeff Foxworthy, here are a few behaviors that hint at false adoption:

Your scrum master or other project leader uses the word “I” five times per 30 seconds of speech with the team.

Your product owner attends and dominates team standups and sitdowns.

The kind of work the team is asked to pull. Yes, there are two things wrong with this one. First, asking the team to pull is not real pull. Second, (especially for a team not producing software) giving the team work so prescriptive that no self-organizing is needed, is not the right kind of work. It’s order giving, and order taking.

What to do?

Begin by looking within. Really take time to reflect and be present in the now. Try Freedom Friday. Examine your actions and words. Are they helping Agile adoption or are they just Kinda Sorta Agile? Reflection takes time and commitment, and it is absolutely worth it.

The easiest and fastest way to gain momentum away from Kinda Sorta Agile is coaching. If you haven’t already, your leaders and teams need a professional coach. Sure, you might have done that already last year or in 2001, and it was expensive. And, pulling a scrum master in to coach leaders will not work. But if you even have a hint of a fever in your Agile organization, you need to address it now. You owe it to your people, to your fellow teammates.

Don’t mistake talking to a peer for coaching. Your peer may be on the same journey, and so he or she may not be able to see the blind spots and opportunities that a coach can.

Finally, take heart. You can do this. Agile is a mindset, not a number target. You are on a journey that is not going to be perfect or predictable. But when you are all in, it can be spectacular.

2 thoughts on “Kinda Sorta Agile

  1. Pingback: Agile Energy | Francie Van Wirkus

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