Agile is NOT for you…


You are talking with two consultants about how to transform your organization into an Agile company so that you can go faster and keep ahead of your competitors.


You explain to them that your stakeholders have a need to know what is going on and to that end, there are reports that need to be created. Furthermore, your product is governed by Sarbannes-Oxley controls, which absolutely MUST be followed. Funding for your projects is allocated 2-3 years in advance and is based on detailed estimates, which are in turn derived from the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for the project. None of this can change.


You continue to explain that the teams are geographically distributed across four continents and 10 time zones and that restructuring the teams and bringing the teams together, even just for release planning is not possible. Your organization also has no budget to buy things like webcams, additional monitors, team rooms, or even open wall space.


The ScrumMaster in your organization will be “in charge” of 10-15 teams and may have other responsibilities as well. Also, the “Product Owner” is really in charge of an entire business unit and won’t be writing any User Stories, so the BAs will need to be a “Product Owner Proxy” for each team.


After spending 20 minutes relating all of this (and more) to the consultants, including how none of this is negotiable, you ask “So, what are your thoughts on the best way to implement Agile here?”


There is silence.


After what seems like an eternity, one of the consultants clears his throat and says “Agile is NOT for you.”


Did you really just hear that??? Doesn’t this guy get it? Is he really so independently wealthy that he is going to throw away the money that is on the table??


There’s a saying that goes: “If you didn’t get the joke, then the joke was not for you.”


If your company is not open to change or trying new things or running experiments in order to learn, then, Agile is NOT for you.


If your organization is not interested in having happy employees by focusing on people or they aren’t willing to make an investment in tools or to look at simple measurements of customer satisfaction such as the Happiness metric or Net Promoter Score, then, Agile is NOT for you.


If you are not willing to explore what “possible” really means and thus, have an open mind to doing the unconventional, then, Agile is NOT for you.


I’m sorry. I really am.


Agile is not magic. We can’t produce something from nothing or make other trade-offs go away. In order to get X, then you must do Y. You can’t expect to maintain the status quo AND improve. It’s simply not the “real world”.


Agile is all about embracing the uncertainty of change and learning how to use it to your advantage.


As a consultant, I often test the waters a bit when going through the discovery stage with a new client. I might say something that represents a “worst case” scenario to see if they are prepared to go there if it comes to that. I also ask a lot of questions around seeing how they think about people, constraints, etc.


My educational background was in Law. I am inclined to look at possibilities. I often find myself in a workshop or training session orating as if I were in court:


“In your expert opinion as a Senior Software Developer, is it POSSIBLE that you could build production-ready features, albeit very small slivers, that are capable of functioning from end to end by cutting through the entire architecture?”


“No. We can’t produce anything of value in less than six weeks.”


“So, it’s NOT POSSIBLE to release a single field on a webpage with a submit button that applies some business logic and then inserts a value into a table in a database that only includes that field? That’s absolutely NOT POSSIBLE??”


“Um, well, yes.”


“I rest my case, your honor.”


Becoming Agile means being open to possibilities and options.


In a sense, BEING Agile is like acknowledging and understanding what innovation truly means in the same sense that an artist understands what “creativity” means. Is someone who simply slaps paint on a canvas with no understanding of what they are doing considered an “artist”? Most of us would say that they are not.


Likewise, I can explain the values, principles, practices, and dynamics of an Agile culture to someone, but I can’t tell them how to be innovative. That’s something that has to come from within.


It’s uncomfortable, change.

And, through discomfort, we learn and grow.


If you are comfortable with how everything is going, then you aren’t learning.


If you aren’t comfortable with the prospect that Agile is going to make you uncomfortable, then Sorry, Agile is NOT for you…