May 13, 2020

I Failed Again – I Talked About Why Agile But They Wanted “How To Scrum”

I failed again – I talked about why agile but they wanted “how to Scrum”

I got the opportunity to share my knowledge on agile to the management team today in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). I thought it is about how an organization responds to change and wanted to understand what agile means. I tried to go a little deeper to help everyone understand: –

What is agile – I asked everyone what it means to them. Got responses like “being flexible,” “respond faster,” “move quickly,” and “adapt to change,”

These gave me the confidence to move towards organization agility. Meanwhile, I asked them where did they hear all these terms?  It helped me to point them towards the “Manifesto of Agile Software Development” and highlighted how much manifesto aligned with these keywords.

Since participants were from non-IT, and my understanding was that they wanted to understand where and how it is applicable beyond software development, I skipped the principles of agile software development. Nevertheless, I focused on organization agility, including supply chain, marketing, production, sales, vendor management, and many other functions within the organizational structure.

Next part – Why Agile
I asked why agile within your organization, and there was absolute silence. There was the first sign; however, I ignored and continued asking similar questions based on my assumptions. My questions were:

How much time do you take to launch a new product?
How and when do you come to know that the product is not working?
How do you respond in case of failure?
What takes more time?

Participants became defensive and started looking at each other rather than exploring reasons. There was the 2nd sign for me that I was not moving in the right direction, and things were becoming uncomfortable. Somehow, I ignored this sign too.

What happened next was not something I wanted but happened.
Going forward, one of the executives came along and shared with the crowd how exactly Scrum works. She kept talking about scrum events/ceremonies and how it helps in coming up with new initiatives (mostly software examples). Everyone liked it, and I was crying inside that whatever they are appreciating is not the goal; instead, the way to do it. There was no problem statement and just a framework. I felt terrible and wanted to stop but could not. I wanted them to think deeper before jumping on any framework, but everybody was already there, and I was late.

Closing was worse.
The same executive said a few things that were an eye-opener for me. I realized how dangerous agile could be. She said to be agile and not do agile, but again she said agile doesn’t fit everywhere. She was referring Scrum doesn’t fit everywhere, but said agile. I was clueless about how to respond and was afraid as well as interrupting her, as everyone was enjoying her talk.

In the end, she showed Stacey’s chart and pointed the same way that I have seen in the presentation. Agile doesn’t apply in a complicated or straightforward zone but more for the complex zone. She mentioned nothing about Stacey either and ended up with the squad, tribe, and chapters.

My learning:
Next time anyone calls me to share what is agile, I feel it’s better to check what is their intention? Is someone going to use me to put forward their agenda? Do participants have any reason to look for agile or just wanted to understand what it is? Or how well they know about agile and Scrum? Are they referring Scrum = agile?

If it is about exploring, better to share one of the approaches to be agile. Don’t touch topics such as organization agility or business agility unless asked.

How will you respond if you were stuck in my situation and not sure what participants are looking for? Feel free to write to me.

The original post is here