Lack of Honesty in Your Agile Team

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Lack of Honesty in Your Agile Team

A Zone Leader recaps the story where a team member failed to be honest with the rest of the team — leading to additional delays and costs to the project.

· Agile Zone ·
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At an early age, I came to understand the value of Benjamin Franklin's famous quote "Honesty is the best policy." It was easy to understand and made life easier to simply be open and honest in your daily life.

Somewhere along the lines, however, the desire to back away from the truth became a utilized approach in cases where the truth contained unfavorable information to the fabricator. Perhaps, the perpetrator of a crime was eventually caught by the authorities. The suspect may opt to embellish the truth in order to avoid the consequences of his evil deeds.

But this doesn't happen on Agile teams, right?

A True and Recent Story

I was a member of an Agile team. Well really, I was a chicken on the team and not a pig...so I was more of a casual observer. Still, I was able to witness this situation, first hand.

The team was working with an external entity who was responsible for a particular aspect of the application. Let's give said team member the fictional name of "Al." 

Al's knowledge for a particular aspect of the project was expected to be far greater when compared to other members of the team. In short, Al's company was considered experts with the technology being utilized and this expertise was going to drive out some proof-of-concept (POC) designs for the features they were tasked to employ.

Listening to the other team members, there was some caution and hesitation regarding Al's contributions and abilities to meet the demands tasked to him. However, the remotely-based team member tried to reassure the team, indicating everything was okay and on track.

Not getting a good vibe, team members began to monitor Al's source control check-ins and often reviewed the code that had been shared with the team's repository. The level of caution was further raised when the code that was available for review was incomplete and not even to a state where it would compile without throwing any errors.

At the end of the sprint, the team had a meeting to discuss the status of the tasks. Al failed to join the call, indicating that he had a "production problem" with another project that required his time. When a follow-up meeting was scheduled the next morning, Al was still confident despite not delivering a fully functional product. In fact, when pressed for information from the team, Al's telephone connection started breaking up – as if he was toggling the mute function on his telephone as he talked.

The Consequences

As the sprint continued, other team members quickly began to realize that Al may not have the skills they were promised by the vendor who selected him for the project. As a contingency, the team had already formulated a Plan B to meet the needs placed on Al if a functional solution as not delivered as promised.

Following the second meeting with Al, all of his work and solutions were tossed aside. The number of hours that were charged to the project from Al were an expense that the accounting department and legal team were eventually tasked to recoup – due Al’s inability to get anywhere close to delivering the solution that was expected.


This realistic example is unfortunately a current summary of a situation I just witnessed firsthand. As a result of Al not employing Franklin's "honesty is the best policy" directive, the following items impacted the project:

  • costs were billed to the project which yielded zero results;

  • team members were faced with having to devise a Plan B, consuming time and resources;

  • stress was added to the team, not knowing if items that were promised would be delivered;

  • the goals of the sprint were put into jeopardy, since one of the team members failed to deliver what was expected.

The short-term gain that Al expected to gain by fabricating his status had the impact of his company losing future work at the client. His trust with the team was broken. Had Al kept an honest approach with his status, the team would have understood he was facing challenges and all could have participated in working towards an alternative plan.

Always remember, honesty is the best policy...even when expectations are not being met.

Have a really great day!

agile adoption ,team collaboration ,team commitment ,honesty ,agile

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