Monday, September 3, 2018

Time to call out bad agile before its too late.

Do you want this person coaching your agile efforts?
Agile is not a revolution in business.  You do not see technology professionals and agilists with pitchforks and torches wanting to burn down global capitalism.  It is a reformation where smart and conscientious people are attempting to reform business.   It creates a backlash against people who are happy with or benefit from the status quo.  Backlash is a natural reaction to change.  What I have discovered this week are developers I have known and respected for years heckling an introductory agile training course in their company.  Via social media, I had a front-row seat.  It was deeply troubling, and I wanted to blog about it.

Plenty of technology leaders have criticized Agile and Scrum.  I have written two blogs directly addressing these concerns. What struck me, recently, was the contempt I was experiencing from quality developers about the basics of agile.  I witnessed a series of vomit GIFS and videos of people attempting to self-harm while the presentation was in process.  One commenter said, “Reading these to my team (we all hate agile) and we are LOL” and the thread continued with someone else saying, “…I have a passion for hating agile so yeah I’m LMAO.”  Making matters worse the slides showing agile principles were mislabeled and out of sequence.  Combine this with an instructor who looked like they never had to deliver working software it was brutal and disappointing.

After some back and forth with the hecklers, someone I deeply respected got to the meat of the why there was so much contempt.  The agile manifesto and principles of agile were “insulting,” and further elaborated, “if your leadership is buying into agile, it works.  However, that is not a case at most companies.  This is much harder to install at something that isn’t a startup.”

The contempt is a product of poor leadership support of agile.  The ridicule comes from skilled and experienced developers who want to ship software without getting bogged down in process.  The laughter comes from poorly coached and led efforts to guide agile at the firm.  The cynicism is a product of “dark scrum” and the creation of a software sweatshop mentality.

It was upsetting to experience this kind of pushback.  I do not discount this experience.  People with PMP certification and limited exposure to agile feel threatened by the reformation of business.  Some of the unscrupulous put on the title of “Agile Coach” without the experience or the mindset of a coach.  These individuals peddle their services as consultants or thought leaders.  Often people like this are about a helpful as butchers in an emergency room and just as dangerous.

Poor agile leadership, coaching, and education deserve contempt.  Those of us who bring a sense of artisanship and care to agile need to point out bad actors and improve the field.  Often, we are brought in to clean up the wreckage created by these people. We should also extend help to the bad actors to improve their ability to do the job.

I firmly believe a terrible agile application to a company is worse than no use of agile at all.  Based on the contempt some of my developer friends heaped on the agile trainer; it is clear they feel the same way.  Coaches and scrum masters like myself will be around to help guide others.  It also looks like we are going to clean up this mess left by others.

Until next time.