February 7, 2022

10 commandments of a crappy agilist

Often enough one can stumble upon the article titled "X principles of doing something". It feels that the learning there is often incomplete as the opposite side of the spectrum is simply not there. For instance, reading an article titled "5 steps to help you quit smoking"  is half as effective as reading both that article and "5 mistakes a smoker makes when trying to quit" all together. The latter not only touches some areas that the former doesn’t, but most importantly, offers a different perspective.

The idea behind this blog post is to accumulate the experience of ‘how not to do things’ when it comes to exercising business agility. Hope that it helps other folks out there. Naturally, there are more than 10 ways to screw things up, but we all know that less is more (and frankly 10 commandments sounds way cooler than 17 or 26).

So, if you really-really want to fail before you even start, obey these commandments:

1. You are the Consultant.
Your goal as an agilist is to come in as a consultant. You are not in the team, you work with the team. The overall success of the whole ‘agile endeavor’ is their responsibility, you’re there to support them along the way.

2. You shall keep things under control.
Control is the ultimate form of trust. Since you’re not on the team, you should install as many metrics for the team as possible. This will not only provide a more comprehensive picture of how things are really going, but will also help you to accurately report to management.

3. You shall not stay.
Starting from day 1 you must make people understand that you’ll be gone soon. It’s a good thing both for your career and for them. Consider yourself Mary Poppins of the agile world: you show up in dire times, make change and then leave. If you never leave, people will never learn to be agile autonomously.

4. You shall abide by your job description.
You are hired by a company that has clear expectations of what your duties should be. Company pays you money to do what's expected of you, not what you think would be best.

5. You shall be realistic.
It’s an extremely rare thing to implement an agile framework exactly as it’s described in the guide or some official document. Tweaking a few things here and there is completely fine, as reality often demands it. This is very much like the laws of physics, that only work in the ‘ideal conditions’.

6. You shall not touch that which works.
The mantra about relentless improvements and continuous pursuit of perfection has nothing to do with how things work in reality. Once a configuration of things that works is there - hold on to it with all your might and prevent all attempts to disrupt the status quo.

7. You shall know best.
Once you start working in a new environment, you will get bombarded with opinions, suggestions and ideas. It’s best to ignore most of those, as they might derail you from the path you’ve chosen. Remember, the very people coming up with those ideas have made the mess you were called in to clean up.

8. You shall not give in to the temptation of the new.
Unlike new technologies that tend to pop up everyday, forcing poor engineers to constantly learn, agile methodologies and frameworks tend to stay way more stable. These ‘updates’ have a little to no value and are mostly dictated by the need to stay relevant in the market. Exercising agility is like riding a bike - you learn it once and just keep riding.

9. You shall be like Bruce Lee.
He said: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10 000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10 000 times”. And this is the way to go for you as well: pick a framework and use it, regardless of the environment or circumstances, over and over again until you master it perfectly.

10. You shall keep going.
No matter what’s going on, admitting mistakes or changing your strategy halfway through will be perceived as a weakness. So, stand your ground at all costs and persist until you break through.

I hope you have enjoyed the list. What would be your advice on wreaking havoc when applying agility? Please leave your comments below.