No one’s perfect, especially me. Or you. Agile isn’t perfect either. Everything and everyone has their shortcomings, and I believe it’s important to acknowledge them.
To be clear, I’m not talking about where a traditional approach is more suited than an agile one. No. Instead, I intend to talk about situations where an agile approach is appropriate and then discuss the shortcomings in those situations. Why? As experts, we must recognize common obstacles and sources of friction. If we can’t name them or don’t think they exist, then we’re not experts. We’re zealots, and I don’t look fondly on those who treat agile as scripture. So let’s get started.
Agile is the long play.
It’s not a rebranding; we don’t simply rename our meetings and claim success. It’s a cultural shift, and that takes time. Years even, and in a world where quarterly earnings are king, that can be a problem. Take Silicon Valley. According to data from 2017, tech companies had some of the highest employee turn over compared to other industries. Many employees were–and likely still are–staying less than 2.5 years at any company. So if both the company and its people are heavily focused on the near term, why would they care about the long play? Maybe Tim has the right approach.
Agility should never be imposed. But it often is.
Agility is about putting people first. It’s about inviting others to solve problems important to them in an effort to improve our surroundings and serve our customers. Then why do so many of us work in organizations where Scrum was imposed or an agile adoption was mandated? But is that really such a problem? Every organization has expectations of its people. Why can’t this be one? Would an organization naturally gravitate to agility, if left to its own devices? I don’t know. Maybe something broader can be imposed and the details be left to the people. Maybe something like this.
Anyone can claim to be an agile coach.
And I’ve run into my fair share that should reconsider their career choice. This isn’t a hit on novices. I was once one myself. I think Stephen Hawking sums it up well:
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.
This is about those that suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Put simply, it says that those who know the least believe they know the most. Are you a pilot? Show me. Land a plane. Are you an agile coach? Well, that’s more difficult to validate, and it’s often easy to fool a layman. Just like agile isn’t perfect, we should never expect perfect coaches. Nonetheless, I think it’s important we help one another grow and, where necessary, unmask the imposters.
We humans focus on what we see.
And that can be a problem. When we think of the electric car, Elon Musk probably comes to mind. The iPhone? Steve Jobs. Heroes are easy to understand. I’m sure we realize that teams of people brought each about. Still, we humans don’t often attribute success to teams of people, and we especially don’t attribute failures to crappy systems as often as we should. Finally since this post was inspired by a few passages from Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense, I’ll let Pfeffer and Sutton explain the rest:
There are two theories. One says ‘there is a problem, let’s fix it.’ The other says ‘we’ve got a problem, someone is screwing up, let’s go beat them up.’ This occurs partly because of how human perception operates. When we look at a situation, like a company, we see individuals—individuals acting, making decisions, doing great or awful things. The context in which this happens, the industry and general economic environment, the actions of all of those people we don’t see, are less obvious and vivid.
How else isn’t agile perfect? You tell me.