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Agile Hotline – Dealing with command and control


Welcome to Agile Hotline!

One of the Scrum Master’s we coach often calls us with problems he is dealing with. He joked that we should answer our phones as ‘Agile Hotline, how can we help?’. We decided it was such a great idea we are starting a series on our blog called Agile Hotline. These are our answers to questions we get from people about agile or Scrum. Our hope is that others can learn from them. 


What strategies can I follow when working with a command and control Agile coach who is suffocatingly breathing down my neck trying to implement his overworking (hours) and some kind of framework, such as 15 minutes sprint review, 1 hour retrospective (lucky us) and out of office hours working practice. He does speak well when giving lectures on what Agile is. He knows all the theory and all the different practices. But when it comes to practice, he is such a disappointment. My job is in his hands. I am under review because I spoke against his practices. I think I need to keep the job to be able to bring in changes.

What we think

It can be difficult to deal with someone who’s approach seems to go against agile, but one of the best things you can do try to understand his point of view, and instead of speaking against it try asking open questions. For example ask: “Why do you think that will work well?” or “How would that help us?” It is very important to do this without judging (which can be very hard).

Consider that he probably feels pressure to show results for delivery. And always in those circumstances it is easy to give in to short term wins like cutting meetings short and working overtime.

The best way to get him to change is to build trust with him first before you question his practices. Maybe he will be open to ideas if he trusts you and you can then suggest trying some other things. Try to focus on seeing him as a person who is trying to do his job well, even if he is misguided. Maybe ask what he is worried about or how he thinks it is going, or how you can help him rather than explaining how you disagree with his practices.

Another great tip to help build trust is to give positive feedback whenever he does something well, for example his talks on agile. People often focus on giving feedback on the negative stuff, but it is equally important to give positive feedback to reinforce desired behaviour.

If you have any questions or things you are struggling with – please email us – and maybe it too will become a blog post 🙂