Sunday, October 6, 2019

Agile - Is it Real or is it Fake?

At the World Agility Forum in Lisbon Portugal on September 29, a panel of leading Agilists focused on “Shifting perspectives to know what is Real (agile)” The panel was made up of Chet Hendrickson, Steve Denning, Nigel Thurlow, and I.  We discussed “What is fake Agile? What is real Agile?”
What is real Agile?  It starts with an alignment to the Agile Values and Principles.  Without understanding and embracing the values and principles, whatever a company is doing is certainly something but can it really be considered real agile? 
Agile is more than mechanically applying Agile processes. This I refer to as “doing Agile”. More important than the selection of a particular process of Agile, is the art of learning how to live Agile values and principles, to transform Agile mechanics into Agile mindset. This is what I call “being Agile.”
Steve shared that fake Agile is really a reference to “Agile in name only”.  Since many companies want the badge, he indicated that to understand if companies are Agile, you need to look beyond what they are saying and look at what they are doing.
Nigel discussed how companies feel the need to get on the Agile bandwagon and do Agile as it is the trend.  He stressed the importance of understanding the benefits that Agile can bring and focusing on this instead of Agile itself.  
Chet shared that there may be something much worse than fake Agile and that is “dark Agile”.  This is using Agile as pressure to get more work done or impose Agile on a team and not remove any of the constraints leading to numerous anti-patterns.
I (Mario) talked about a concept akin to fake Agile which I call “FrAgile”. This is when Agile is so minutely applied with little focus on the Agile Values and Principles that it quickly becomes brittle, lacks vigor, and shatters once there is tension applied, leading to a regression to old ways of working.
It was a healthy and collaborative discussion leading to a clear awareness of how fake Agile is damaging the good name of Agile.  Instead, it is time to bring pointed awareness of what is and isn’t agile and advocate for “being Agile” and the outcomes it can bring.

For more on Fake Agile, consider reading:

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The importance of Meeting them Where they Are

As I work with teams, leaders, or executives when applying Agile, often times what they ask for is not the first thing they need.  This is why bringing a “meet them where they are” mindset is important.  When you meet them where they are, you can bring the kind of coaching, education, and feedback that better fits their role and experience.
In most cases “meeting them where they are” means to understand where mentally (both intellectually and emotionally) they are in relation to the topic, in this case Agile.  This may mean attempting to understand their level of Agile knowledge, experience with Agile, and motivation or willingness for Agile. Sometimes meeting them where they are is physical meaning you join them in their workplace, their daily stand-up, or any space you may observe their interactions to better understand where they are.
This approach can help you understand the common ground. This helps the Agile coach know where they are and where they can go from there. It helps a coach determine how to engage in a way that is sensible and motivating to those they are coaching.  Example of meeting them where they are include:
- If a team has only just begun to form, it may be better to educate them on what it means to be a team, the Tuckman model, and on what it means to form before you expect them to perform well. 
- If a new team wants to give and receive honest feedback to each other, it may be better to first initiate icebreakers and connecting activities so that team members can get to know one another and build psychological safety and trust first.
- If a team or company wants to embark on an Agile journey, before you educate the team on how to do Scrum it may be better to first start with a discovery activity to gauge the current knowledge of Agile, Agile experience, and willingness to apply Agile.  This can help you better adapt the level of Scrum education they need.
- If you learn that the team is fairly Agile savvy and have applied Scrum already, but are having challenges with decomposing work, then you can meet them where they are but experimenting with story mapping.
Meeting them where they are has multiple advantages but the primary one is that you can determine what they need first.  When you meet them where they are, you can bring the kind of coaching, education, and feedback that better fits their knowledge, experience, and willingness.