News from Outside the Bubble: Agile Hurts
Updated: Jun 15
“Isn’t it ironic that your life’s mission is happy workplaces, yet you work as an Agile Coach.”
That was not a line edited out of Alanis Morissette’s song, that was an actual sentence spoken to me last week. I think I stopped breathing for a minute.
Agilists, how the heck did we get here? And how can we get out? Agile Coaches all think they are creating better, happier workplaces. So why do those in the actual workplaces often feel the exact opposite?
Weaponized Agile. I walked into a company that was shellshocked from prior Agile efforts. They had been mandated to follow a strict Agile process. A strict Agile process? Isn’t that an oxymoron? The process prevented them from being effective at getting their work done.
Part of this mandatory process was mandatory happiness tracking. Irony!
First, Do No Harm. I think as Agilists we need a code of conduct. Like doctors have...first do no harm. If your team is less effective and less happy doing Agile, something is seriously wrong! When teams ask me if they are “doing it right” my answer is always “You tell me. How’s it working for you?” If it’s helping you then you’re doing it right, if it’s not, let’s look at how we can make it better.
Change Saturation. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how I feel about the concept of Change Saturation. But the fact is that these folks were tired of new bosses, new org structures, and new ways of doing things. They were just waiting for this to blow over so they can get back to work.
Stop Calling it a Process. Agilists hate it when you call Agile a process. Why? Because it makes it seem like you’re just gonna follow this process, check the box and call it a day. The big difference between Agile and all other processes is that traditional processes are designed to smooth things and Agile is designed to unearth all the crap that’s preventing you from getting work done. Agile is a shit disturber. If you don’t want that, well maybe go look for a different process.
Agile can Lead to Happy Workplaces. Yes really. Here are the top 3 effects I’ve seen:
Camaraderie. Enjoying working with others makes it nice to come to work. I have worked with teams who never knew the people sitting next to them before joining an Agile team. Suddenly they knew about people’s families, had lunch buddies, and looked forward to coming to work.
Work gets done. Based on my research and experience, what makes people happy at work is being able to do their damn job. Work sucks when you can’t get your work done. Why wouldn’t you be able to get your work done? Dependencies on other departments with conflicting priorities. Goals but no budget. Budget but no resources. Bosses creating impossible urgency. There are numerous internal blockers to getting work done. Agile helps.
Collective Voice. This one is not being embraced quite yet, but it’s next on the horizon. Once we have teams with the best interests of the company in mind, they can use their collective voice to re-balance the power in their company. Traditionally, the boss is a single point of power over an employee, at every level. With Agile teams the team has power. It’s now time for Agile teams to exercise their collective voice.
Brain twist: Is Agile hurting your organization? Take a closer look at why it’s hurting. See if you can harness Agile to relieve the pain.