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Are you limiting your own success?

Often when talking to companies thinking about becoming agile, I hear people say things like: “We want to be agile, but we do fixed price fixed scope contracts and we can’t change that”, or “We’d like to be agile, but we work in a compliance industry so we need requirements to be signed off first”

The problem with these statements is that they make assumptions about things that can’t change. If one thing is true about agile it is that it will highlight where there are problems in your organisation, and give you an opportunity to improve. However if you take some things off the table before you even get out of the starting gates, how likely are you to succeed? Agile is all about challenging the status-quo, to find a better way of working. Let’s face it, if the status-quo was working you wouldn’t be looking to change it, would you?

Imagine I decide I’d like to lose 10kgs. I go to a dietician and say: “I’d like to weigh 10kgs less, but I can’t change my diet, and I don’t want to exercise”. The dietician is likely to tell you something has got to give. Notice any similarities?

This is especially a common problem with managers. They would love their team to be agile (and by this they really mean hyper-productive), but they don’t really want to change the way they manage the team. People think agile is about developers. To really benefit from being agile, the whole company needs to be agile. That means change at every level. I have seen Scrum fail in organisations exactly because although there was a requirement for the developers to change, management and the rest of the organisation was unwilling to change.

So if you are a manager considering moving to agile, ask yourself this: What am I willing to change to help my team be more agile? What are the assumptions I am making about things that can’t change? Can I imagine a future where those could change, and it would be for the better? Am I putting obstacles in the way of our own success because I am unwilling to change?

7 thoughts on “Are you limiting your own success?”

  1. Are you sure this is true? “This is especially a common problem with managers.”

    I’ve only experienced 2 Scrum implementations; one successful, one not. In both implementations there was no more resistance from management than from developers. But I really am asking a question, because you guys have seen a lot more implementations than I have.

    By the way, I love the body copy typesetting of your articles. And consider either removing the picture of the ascending graph or push it out to the side, so that at least the title of the article appears above the fold for readers who have adjusted font size for readability. I had to scroll down to see the title, and very nearly closed the browser tab, thinking it was a dud from my morning feed clicking. 🙂

    1. Oh wow. That must have sounded retarded. I just realized I only love your body copy typesetting *because* my browser knows I like +3 zoom on your site.

      But once it’s adjusted up to 16pt, I love the soft foreground colour. *blush*

    2. Interesting to hear your feedback. I think you have been pretty lucky. In my experience although management might say they buy in to agile, they rarely have a deep understanding of the implications on how staff are managed and the level of trust and empowerment required. Having worked for a manager who does understand agile, I can say without a doubt that it is a huge factor helping teams be successful.

    3. Okay Sheldon, we have managed to remove the images and get the title higher up. Thanks for the input – we love feedback – keep it coming.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Sheldon – I will see what we can do about the title being above the fold.
    A little odd but we’re glad you like the soft foreground color 😉

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