Agile Leaders…Be a Yes Man!
Bob Galen

Do you recall the Jim Carrey movie called Yes Man? In it he was influenced by a ‘cult’ of sorts that recommended an approach, in order to change our lives, where we have to say YES to everything – every question, every opportunity, and every inquiry.

The point is somewhat captured in the agile posture of “Yes, and…” that many coaches subscribe to.

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Lately I’ve been thinking about traditional software leaders who are moving towards agile methods. Typically they take a class or workshop to gain a cursory understanding of agility. Some even take more ‘advanced’ workshops, which are focused towards the leadership shift.

Quite often the terms ‘servant’ and ‘leader’ are merged to describe the direction each of them is taking to evolve their leadership style to support and compliment the agile transformation.

The Big But

But the hidden truth is that it takes quite a lot to get agile leadership in your DNA or into your ‘bones’. Much more than any class, workshop, or simulation can provide. It requires practice, particularly around:

  • Empowering and challenging your teams;
  • Extending trust, really extending it without “trust, but verify”;
  • Allowing and encouraging teams to solve their own problems;
  • Supporting the teams ideas – no matter how far-fetched;
  • Providing all of the resources they need and ask for;
  • Resolving team impediments and escalations.

And just generally guiding and supporting those great folks you’ve hired in kicking butt and delivering value for your clients, all the while having fun doing it.

So, here’s the deal…

I’ve heard it takes doing something 14 days in a row in order for it to become a habit. I’m going to double that time-frame just because I believe this challenge will be extraordinarily hard for most leaders.

I want you to say YES to everything your teams ask for 30 days.

  • Say yes to requests
  • Say yes to ideas & proposals
  • Say yes to issues that are escalated to you
  • Say yes to estimates and plans
  • Say yes to designs
  • Say yes to requests for help or assistance
  • Say yes to everything…FOR 30 Days!

Then, after it’s over, reflect on what happened from a leadership perspective. For example:

  • How did it feel?
  • How did your teams respond? In the beginning and over time?
  • Did the world come to an end? Or catastrophes occur?
  • Importantly, what were the ultimate results?
  • And even more importantly, what have you learned? And what adjustments might you make to your leadership style?

Wrapping Up

And Yes Man isn’t only for the men reading this. It’s for the ladies as well, as I was just using the movie title to get your attention.

To all those brave souls who try my challenge, please consider writing a comment to this article and sharing your experiences – good and/or bad.

My hope it that I’ve inspired a new generation of Yes Men leaders within agile team contexts. I can’t wait to see the comments come in.

bobgalenBob Galen

For 15 years, I’ve been focused on leveraging agile methods as the best way to deliver software value. While not being a silver bullet, they simply work better than anything I’ve tried. I am an experienced, pragmatic, and passionate agile trainer, coach, and practitioner.

Specialties: I have unique agile coaching skills & experience in the following areas: large-scale testing, project management & portfolio management (PMO), distributed agile, and introducing and sustaining agile at-scale.

I’m a Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) and SAFe SPC providing agile team coaching & training with a specialty in Scrum+XP, Lean and Kanban practices.