Meeting a nay-sayer voicing concerns about Agile…

A very interesting opportunity presented itself to my last week.  On a Friday night, I was out helping my wife celebrate the end of her ACCA exams for the summer where I bumped into an old friend of my sisters, who was intoxicated, out celebrating his birthday.

He was a guy who manages teams of project managers and has seen adoption of Agile add little to no value to the teams his project managers have worked with.  When I cut through all of the negativity he was throwing out there, it was clear what the source of the frustration was.  There was so much focus on following the Agile methodology whenever his teams went about it, they forgot some important things along the way.  Who knows who they were trying to please by “doing Agile” stuff, but by getting bogged down in processes and tools is against the first value of the Agile manifesto.

What was causing the frustration was simple.  No-one was getting on with the work itself.  The team wasn’t becoming self-organising and cross-functional, nor were they being guided or empowered to do so.

He brought up an interesting comment when I explained they need to think in business terms:

“If the developers were thinking in business terms, they’d go and start their own business”.

Not all projects are suited to having an independent business.  These projects are necessary within businesses themselves and require developers who are super-talented and can think in business-needs.  It is short-sighted to think of developers in this way.  Without the necessary respect for the amazing talent out there, how can you motivate and expect the work to get done?

You see, on the flipside of the processes and tools is the thing we value more: Individuals and Interactions.  I have a feeling his project managers don’t quite see it that way.  Being Agile doesn’t come about when there is no respect and that’s something that needs to be addressed if we want to get better at what we do.