As someone who is conscious of other people’s needs, I don’t see myself as a dogmatic agile purist. Instead, I pride myself of the ability to handpick practices and tools for clients based on their maturity and environment. So you can imaging the surprise I had when one of a close client team member called me an agile purist in a half joking way. Knowing that any joke is based on some kind of truth and being the curious yours truly, I convinced her to tell me more about the reason. It turns out she and some of the other team members think I have been advocating things that is “out of their control”. Things like signing up for their own tasks and stories are difficult when there are more than one manager on the team that doesn’t want to let go of control totally. Stopping the habit of over-committing work into the sprint were also met with resistance as the project manager has a schedule based on WBS to follow and development manager would commit on behalf of the team all in the interest of keeping things on schedule. So, how can I, as a coach, push them to do these things when they are not allowed to do so? These are all real issues and I felt terrible for putting the team in that position. Then the thinking started – why are we in such a situation and what can I do about it. That’s when I realized that I have done something about it already. In fact, I have had private conversations with various managers regarding the topic of self-organization. There are just so many hesitation because the team is relatively new and not familiar with the product. So the reality is this change is going to take time. Now should I stop advocating it to the team members in the meantime? The conclusion is NO. Because we need to get out this victim mentality to make any sustainable change. Should we always wait for the organization to change first? Should we wait for a memo from the CEO’s office before acting? If you ask yourself these questions, the answer will become fairly evident. Each of us controls a part of our destiny. Like Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III said “Struggle is the meaning of life; defeat or victory is in the hands of God. But struggle itself is man’s duty and should be his joy.” Each of us, from top to bottom in the organizational structure has the right and responsibility to voice your opinion. Each of us is part of the problem domain just as much as your colleague and manager. So, keep voicing your opinions and when a lot of us does that, something amazing will happen.
Now, this is not to say our leaders gets off free. Change is most effective when it is supported from the top. Leaders bear additional responsibility because you are not just responsible for yourself but also others. A successful agile transformation requires push from both top and bottom.
So, I will continue to be an agile purist in mindset and a pragmatic and practical agile practitioner. What about you?