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Agile Bullies

bullySomething has started to happen in the agile community. Something that makes me sad, so I wanted to write about it.

More and more I see agile coaches and trainers publicly saying that xyz is not agile or bad agile. What’s worse is that often people attack not just the idea, but the person. It’s a bit like the kind of bullying that happens in school.

So why does it bother me? Well the very behaviour of dismissing someone else’s idea outright, seems counter to what agile is about for me, and yet the people dismissing the ideas are the one’s claiming to be much more agile (if such a thing exists).

I remember when I was new to agile. I had some pretty crap ideas. At the time I thought I really ‘got’ agile and that my ideas were great. I had the best of intentions, but my experience and context at the time led me to come up with ideas that today I would probably not consider. Does that make me a bad person? No. Does that make me unagile? No. And if someone had told me my ideas were bad, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

Part of coaching and being agile to me is about giving good feedback based on your personal experience. The goal of feedback in my view is to attempt to change something.

Surely more productive approach would be to say: In my experience hardening sprints can slow teams down, since they create a culture of delaying problems till the end of the release. This can lead to a large amount of undone work, which can put the release date at risk.

I really enjoyed @lunivore’s tweets recently when she attended a SAFe course. I loved the approach Liz had of finding out what SAFe was all about, and discussing it’s strengths and weaknesses based on her experience.

Similarly when I heard people start talking about DAD, I decided to chat to Scott Ambler to find out a bit more about it, instead of judging it. I have met Scott and he’s a pretty reasonable and pragmatic person, so I couldn’t imagine DAD was the terrible thing some people were saying it was.

I’d really like people in the agile community to stop bullying others and start seeking to understand other people’s context and point of view. There might just be a useful idea or practice you can learn from.

2 thoughts on “Agile Bullies”

  1. I quite agree that there people who can demonstrate behaviours as agile bigots in the industry. Sometimes as you say it’s oriented around this process is better than that etc, or if you’re not textbook scrum you are a bad person. I feel this gives the industry a bad name and makes new takers of agile processes feel bad when they have only just started their journey of adoption; you can be perfect strict away and every team’s journey will be different.

    However the industry is also bad at explaining the ‘science’ behind activities. It’s a case of you’re a bad person if the PO doesn’t explain the stories in planning, instead of explaining the science of task significance and how information sharing face to face is better than a specification doc etc. If you dig behind the processes there are lots of good things why they work and why dropping them can reduce your effectiveness. Coaches and trainers need to do their clients a favour and show them the light and not berate them.

  2. Thank you, Karen.

    We are doing our best to be Agile in local government. I’ve not found many like us that share our local gov’t concerns. We participate in area Agile meetings which are almost exclusively private sector. I sometime get strange looks when I describe what we are trying to do at the county. Some folks (Agile bullies) do not think what we are doing is Agile.

    We do not make money. We do not have to be first-to-market. Some of my private-sector colleagues find it difficult to comprehend. “It’s not really that different,” I explain. We focus on quality and customer satisfaction. These are Agile principles.

    I hope other local gov’ts transform to Agile. It’s common sense to me.

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