TL; DR: Lipstick Agile — Happiness in the Trenches?
Have you noticed how many people in the agile field are unhappy with their work situation? A situation where an organization already struggles doing agile, not to mention ‘becoming agile?’ This is what I call lipstick Agile.
Scrum Masters and agile coaches are close to either burnout or indifference. Product Owners who “own” the product by name only, and developers questioning why “Agile” is imposed upon them and often turns out to be just another form of micromanagement.
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Lipstick Agile in Statements and Observations
Here is a personal list of quotes, issues, observation, and challenges that have made me think about being a member of an organization — shall I stay or shall I go, so to speak:
Quotes from Stakeholder and Clients
- “How many teams can you handle at the same time — three or four?” (This quote is from a prospective client who was looking for a Scrum Master for several newly-formed Scrum teams without any experience.)
- “The availability of meeting rooms is a difficult topic here.” (There was no space at all available. And improvising by using the walls in hallways, for example, was strictly prohibited.)
- “We don’t need physical boards; we use Jira.” (“When you put problem in a computer, box hide answer. Problem must be visible!” Hideshi Yokoi, former President of the Toyota Production System Support Center in Erlanger, Kentucky, USA.)
- “Test automation does not work for us. We always test manually.” (A manager from a corporate QA silo w/o an engineering background on test-automation. He had a large number of subordinates in East-Asia for manual testing.)
- “We deploy once a week so that the governance team has a chance to sign-off our work.” (The Scrum team in question created an excellent build pipeline and could deploy at will.)
- “As a Scrum Master, you will also report the performance metrics of the team to the project manager after each sprint.” (A “Scrum Master task” stressed by a prospective client.)
- “We can invest more in learning once we have delivered [the application] and proven our usefulness.” (Knowledge sharing as a reward. That’s the equivalent to insisting on that any R&D project must pay for itself.)
- “I think pair programming is a waste of resources. Remember, it is twice the work in half the time.” (Thank you, Mr. Sutherland, for not pointing at the fine-print so every business guy gets the message wrong. Spoiler alert: It is about maximizing the amount of work not done.)
- “Why would you include the developers in the user interviews? They are supposed to write code. The business analysts can do the talking.” (Classic taylorist thinking from the industrial age applied to knowledge work. It is not about the quantity of code developed; it is about creating the right code. In that respect, nothing is more valuable than developers directly talking to customers.)
- “We need to meet numbers and deadlines. That’s more important than living up to some fancy initiatives of the C-level like ‘becoming agile.’” (Charlie Munger: “Never, ever, think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.”)
- “We know what we need to build, talking to users is a distraction.” (If the waterfall approach is working for you, why venture out into the realms of agile product development?)
Observations in the Past
- Stakeholders do not participate in ceremonies, for example, Sprint Reviews. Never.
- Stickies on a physical board seem to have been aligned with a bubble level by the previous Scrum Master. (A prospective client, looking for a new dedicated, full-time Scrum Master for a Scrum Team comprising five people.)
- The walls in the office are strictly off-limits, enforced by the facility management. (The CEO was massively proud of the (unsuited) office design by a well-known architect, showing around visitors regularly. Consequently, the Scrum had no boards.)
- The Scrum Master had to process office-supplies order requests of the Scrum team. (No comment.)
Lipstick Agile — The Conclusion
Shall I stay, or shall I go? That’s the question in situations like the ones sketched above. Suppose you decide to stay, roll-up your proverbial sleeves and get going. If you choose to leave, do so quickly before you fall victim to the singing of the corporate sirens. What I cannot recommend is shrugging your shoulders because you have to make ends meet.
What has made you reconsider your job situation in the past?
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