Jiri Lundak

Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Are We Following Agility Blindly?

In Agile, Collaboration, Management, Values on November 14, 2012 at 1:22 am

Are we a swarm of agile fanatics, that do think in an undifferentiated way to have found the silver bullet for producing good software? Are we a bunch of people so convinced of ourselves, that we meet persons (like middle managers, bosses, CEOs or simple colleagues) thinking differently, with indifference at best and arrogance at worst?

Recently I was pointed to read the following article in the renowned German newspaper “Die Zeit”: “Der Sog der Masse”. The article (titled something like “The Pull of the Masses”, sorry for the imperfect translation – no native English speaker here), tries to discuss the power of mainstream thinking, where the big mass of people follows a quite small number of articulate people, that voice loudly a particular (but many times false) opinion.

Discussing the article was interesting. It was cited to indicate to a small group of people – that where voicing concern, that the company they were working for, was becoming less “Agile” -, that these people were speaking up, not because they were convinced of Agile values, but because they where following a small group of articulate spokespersons, without reflecting on their own.

Hmm…this happening makes me think.

Do we as proponents of the Agile community communicate well? Do we sell our noble goal – to give customers what they really need and delight them – really well?

We perceive ourselves as fighting against the mainstream of how software is developed and how work is managed. We are not mainstream yet, because many companies do not do Agile, although they say they do. At the same time there are companies that do Agile for quite a long time, but where people entering the organization perceive the existing culture to be “the mainstream”. When new managers want to bring in new (but old) practices, that the Agile community abandoned some 10 years ago, they feel like a new minority, with a fresh “new” perspective. They feel the need to challenge the existing thinking.

Is this bad? I do not think so. I always perceived the Agile community, and also most of its members, as open to “new” challenging thinking. But does this mean one should jump ship at first sign of contrasting thought? Not really. Having a conviction and standing in for a set of common values is not per se bad.

The main problem lies, as many times, in communication. As we know communication is always multidirectional. Whole books have been written on the subject. But one of the main hindrances I observed these days first hand, is the absence of deep listening, on both sides – the so-called “mainstream” and the “challengers”.

Following things hinder deep listening (and thus understanding):

  • Missing appreciation for all people.
  • Egocentricity (being focused on own goals).
  • Underestimation of people's value system.
  • Fixation on preconceived “solutions” and own worldview.

We from the Agile community should not fall prey to these kinds of hindrances for good communication. This would go counter our own values and quickly give us a bad rap.

I know we are mostly not following agility blindly. Let not people have the impression, though!