I have been somewhat negligent in writing any Agile posts over the last few weeks. I have been working with a development organization on an out of town coaching engagement. The initiation phase is probably my least favorite time. My doubts about myself and my abilities always seem to surface in my mind. Will I be able to help this company? Will they be willing to help themselves? Do they really want to be Agile? What kind of management support will we get?
As the engagement starts, most of these questions get answered fairly quickly. Over the last week, I have developed the first version of the answer to most of the questions. Various team members have been dropping by, introducing themselves, and then started telling me why they needed help. Some of the conversations are 5 minutes, and a couple have gone 2 hours.
So back to the main point: I have been asked ‘How do I start being “Agile”‘?
Many of you know that Agile is an umbrella term that represents a collection of development methodologies and frameworks that embrace the principles of the Agile Manifesto. It includes such disciplines as Scrum(my favorite), Kanban, Crystal, Test Driven Development, and Extreme Programming. However, in my opinion (IMO), Agile is really a state of mind. To get started with Agile, you need to change how you think.
How I think? That continues to be the biggest challenge for me. I grew up professionally in a Command and Control structure. It started early when you followed the demand of your football coach yelling at you. It continued when I graduated to flipping burgers, and later developing soft are. We were told what to do and how to do it. Most managers today got into management because they got tired of being told what to do. I know I wanted to be the “Man”, giving orders to those below me.
Somewhere around the early 90’s I noticed a change. Successful mangers have been quietly moving away from C&C.
Transitioning to Agile brings this move front and center. Moving to an Agile state of mind means that managers:
Let go of the perception that they are in charge. In reality, you were never in charge, but you told everyone you were.
Support their Scrum teams by helping remove impediments and assisting in the prioritization of the backlog.
Be a cheerleader for your scrum teams. Be a chicken as they self-organize, but point out in one on one conversations when you see something good happen.
Listen to new ideas. This is a tough one. A lot of C&C managers believe people should just follow. They also believe they are smarter than everyone else. While that may be true, shut up and listen. Your team will surprise you.
Embrace the Agile Manifesto. If you read it, you will have to agree with it. It just makes sense.
Thanks for coming in today.