Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, February 23, 2015

You are not a ninja!

Agile professionals are NOT ninjas!
Like most professionals, I tend to get ornery from time to time.  I am beginning to think that this is a healthy response to working in present day corporations.  Human beings have gone from being hunter gatherers to living in cubical farms in the span of 5,000 years.  It does not surprise me that there is not some kind of psychological backlash to this situation.  Further changes in the professional world like the hoteling of work spaces and the growing dependency on contract workers has made life in the corporate world seem like something out a Franz Kafka novel.  Today, I want to talk about something that have been bothering me over the last few weeks.  The growth of faux titles that agile professionals are using to try and describe themselves.

My irritation began when I noticed that someone began using the phrase “code ninja” to describe themselves and scrum master skills.  I have already blogged about what I think about people who describe themselves in this manner.  Now, I am seeing terms like “Agile evangelist” and “Wizard” cropping up in some discussions about agile professionals.  I understand why people are doing this to try and brand themselves and make themselves more appealing to the market but it really needs to stop right now.

We are agile professionals.  We are not wizards pulling rabbits out of our pointy hats and summoning a Patronus when an impediment crops up.  We are not Jedi because I doubt we would ever get the licensing from Disney to use the title and we don’t have cool light sabers.  This also means we have to deal with Sith and frankly the thought of executives with the power to force choke is a little disconcerting.  We are not ninjas because even though we are highly skilled professionals we are not being asked to kill people.  Finally, we are not evangelists.  Evangelism requires blind faith, total dedication, and the commitment to orthodoxy.  That is the antithesis of Agile.

Agile requires its practitioners to try new things.  One of the tenants of the manifesto, is we respond to change over following a plan.  Pragmatism, the scientific method, good engineering, and relying on a community of professionals is what makes us agile.  Contemporary evangelism tends to shun these values.  I will concede that it does take a leap of faith to try and change how contemporary business is done but we are no different than the professionals who applied W.E. Deming’s methods in Japan or the lean manufacturing professionals currently practicing in the United States.

Finally, if you call yourself an agile apostle and you are not one of the original signatories of the Agile Manifesto you deserve a good dose of scorn and ridicule.  Agile was not dictated to us like the Koran to Mohamed or revealed to us via golden tablets to John Smith.  It is the product of thousands of people attempting to pull business out of the 19th century and into the 21st. It is changing and evolving and responding to change.

Drop the silly titles and let your work speak for itself.  We are Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches.  We are servant leaders trying to help others be more productive and content with their careers.  We need to get our hands dirty, refactor code, attend meetings, deal with the personal problems of our developers and try to make a difference in the lives of the people we work with.  This is not glamorous or flashy work but it needs to be done.  I you want to call yourself a ninja or Jedi then I think we are not going to work well together.  Don’t worry those of us exhibiting the quite professionalism the job requires will still be here to clean up your messes.

Until next time.