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My, How the Times Are a Changin’

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My, How the Times Are a Changin’

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@mcottmeyer: Interesting Post… [Agile Guide] – Rotating Responsibility for Scrums and Retrospectives http://dlvr.it/CFN4q

@davenicolette: “Take the reins…standard meetings…assign a different leader…” My, how agile thinking has deteriorated over the years!

For you guys that have been following my stuff for a while, you know that I tweet a bunch of agile content from my Google Reader feed in the form of the “Interesting Post…” I chose the word ‘interesting’ to describe these posts very carefully. ‘Interesting’ is one of those ambiguous descriptors that is neither good or bad… you can form your own conclusion… I just want to create the opportunity for discussion.

This morning I was going through my backlog of unread Google Reader posts, and shared a post by Peter Saddington aka @agilescout. Peter was commenting on a post by David Bland about “Rotating Team Roles” and shared with us a quick summary of his take on the the Daily Scrum and Retrospective meetings. Nothing earth shattering, but I know both Peter and David, and though the post might be ‘interesting’ to some folks.

Apparently it was interesting enough for Dave Nicolette to post his reply to my tweet (see above). I have a ton of respect for Dave so I went back and re-read the original post looking specifically for the the language Dave was talking about. I didn’t react initially to the language Dave referenced, but you know what… he has a point. Have we really gotten to the point where language that talks about “taking the reins… standard meetings… and assigning leaders” doesn’t even raise an eyebrow?

Here is my take… we all know that agile works best with a team of experts. Give me manageable project scope, 5-6 Rock Star Developers, and a Customer and we can make magic happen. You could make the case, as many have, that we don’t need project managers… we don’t need business analysts… we don’t need QA. All of those folks are overhead that just slows the process down. That is the world in which agile was conceived… that’s just not the world that many of us live in.

Agile has gone mainstream, or it’s going to go mainstream fast. Companies with all those traditional roles are trying get the business benefits agile promises. People are trying to leverage agile in places where 20% of the people do most of the work, and the other 80% are basically overhead. People are trying to adopt agile in environments where the corporate culture fights it every step of the way. Unfortunately, in those environments you often have to start by “taking the reigns… implementing standard meetings… and assigning leaders”.

So… to Dave’s point, I don’t think necessarily that ‘agile thinking’ has deteriorated as much as ‘agile practice’ has deteriorated to accommodate contexts in which it was never really intended to be applied. I find myself quite often using the words ‘starter kit’ to put into context the things that I am teaching my clients… it’s the whole Shu-Ha-Ri thing. Maybe we have start with more heavy handed guidance, but if we don’t progress toward more empowered, self-organized teams, we’ll ultimately fail our clients.

I do think we need to be more vigilant with our use of language… words do mean things. We risk having those words… and that thinking… become part of the standard definition of agile. At that point I think we will have missed the point.

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