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Unproductive Polarising Extremes

April 24, 2024

Over the last few years I have observed an increase in polarising extremes. This is occurring everywhere in our modern lives – news, politics, social media. There is an increasing intolerance to engage with another perspective. While comforting, as our world view is not challenged – it does break down social cohesion.

The ability to form groups or tribes is a critical function of being a mammal. In the savannah herd behaviours kept us safe from predators. As we evolved, the ability to form groups enabled specialisms. I can only do so much in a day, so if you focus on one thing – it frees me up to do something else. This means I need to find my tribe.

The fastest way to whittle this down from “everyone” is to find my “not” tribe. I am not into that topic, so they are not from my tribe. This could be as simple as a colour choice. You can observe this with sporting teams, and to push it to breaking point – nations and religions. I identify with this flag, anyone else is “not” me.

Bringing this back to my work in Agile, and social media – there is a lot of this polarising statements as it garners attention and builds a “reputation”. Here are some recent ones:

  • Story points are trash
  • Scrum is a waste of time
  • SAFe is terrible
  • Agile is dead

"To me, it doesn't matter if your scapegoats are the Jews, the homosexuals, the male sex, the Masons, the Jesuits, the Welfare Parasites, the Power Elite, the female sex, the vegetarians, or the Communist Party. To the extent that you need a scapegoat, you simply have not got your brain programmed to work as an efficient problem-solving machine." ~ Robert Anton Wilson

A group of people around a table

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These are noisy and unhelpful statements.

They trigger the us and them response, that entrenches beliefs. It plays into echo chamber thinking instead of encouraging a more empirical approach to learning.

With the work that I do as an Agile coach, I am constantly trying to work from a stance of curiosity with positive intent. Why does a sensible person hold that perspective – what is it that I am not understanding?

This is the scientific approach, not the dogmatic approach.

What I hold self evident may not be the case for you – so lets have a discussion and learn from each other. Probably we both are a little bit correct!

Fundamentally I think that any technique is wrong, I believe that it may be used in a poor way. 

Story Points:

If it helps a team understand upcoming work better, fantastic. If it is used to force them to deliver to a schedule, that is terrible.

Scrum is a waste of time:

It’s a framework. Most of the organisations I work with initially don’t have any idea what Scrum is, despite saying they use Scrum. The number of “Agile Coaches” I have met or trained that have never read the Scrum Guide are too many to count. Scrum will reveal not resolve your challenges. What is a waste of time is using Scrum vocabulary on your process (or lack of it).

SAFe is terrible:

It is a very heavy framework, and it is very top down. However it has helped a lot of organisations learn something about a flow of value. Provided you build in the learning loops you can be agile. As it is a scaling framework, any misapplication will generate a scaled crazy response!

Agile is dead:

How can an idea die? What I am observing is a lot of people using this as a starting point to buy their version of Agile. In the way that a lot of the reasons mentioned in the “Scrum is a waste of time” point, many people and organisations professing to be agile have never understood the core principles of agile or read the agile manifesto.

I invite you to not engage in the click bait. If you want to engage in the nonsense of polarising perspective, enjoy this classic Monty Python sketch instead Argument (

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