Agile scared me

I’ve been noticing posts, comments and tweets about agile recently where people are being incredibly derogatory and negative. Almost to the point where their comments are bordering on offensive. The trouble is most of these people openly admit they have never actually worked in an agile environment. So what gives?

You know what I think? I think agile scares some people. I think they worry that they won’t have a job, that their role will change so much they can’t cope and that maybe, they will be exposed as a tester who is not capable of testing. Harsh, but even a well known testing presenter (who shall remain nameless) identified that this often happened when teams make the transition to agile. The move to agile identified those who are “not so good”.

I’ve been talking a lot about agile recently because for me the turning point in my career came when I started on an agile project.

At first I hated it.
Then I quite liked it.
Then my passion for testing was re-ignited and I started to really thrive in an agile environment.

Agile put me back in the zone. It cut out the bureaucracy, the admin side of test artifacts and left me (and the team) in control of creating great software. And this scares many teams.

What? Us in control? Really? Are you sure? But how will we cope? What do we do when? Eh? You want us to create our own structure? Are you mad?

And hence many teams flounder, fumble and stumble back to traditional ways of working.

I remember my first agile project and the first “kick off” meeting. It was an eye opener. It terrified me. I couldn’t believe people worked this way.

Before the meeting I read the agile manifesto, I read the scrum alliance website, I read some books and I read some blogs. I didn’t understand it at first, so I rewound and read it again until my brain hurt. And I still didn’t get it. It still didn’t make much sense. Theoretically it sounded fab. In reality though, how could it work?

In that first meeting I was informed by the Tech Lead that the UI would be the design and that we don’t need to worry too much about the requirements (backlog). Seriously? No design? No planning? I believe I gave the same look my careers adviser gave me when I told him I wanted to be a ventriloquist (thanks Seinfeld for the joke). I almost choked with rage.

From that point on though it started to make sense. And more importantly, it started to really work. I started to feel passionate about delivering software again. My job felt meaningful. We rolled out software….fast (and to top notch quality).

To sum up why though, here’s four reasons why I believe adopting an agile mindset will help you re-ignite your passion for creating fab software (I also included the slide). Agile gives you:

1.Freedom for the team to choose its own framework based on their local context. (team, customer, skills, experience, organisation ethos)

2.Freedom for the team to choose its own way of providing rapid and accurate feedback. (feedback to all team members as soon as possible is critical to success)

3.Freedom for the team to work to its strengths and weaknesses enabling them to inject the fun back in to software development

4.Freedom for the team to take control. No Excuses. Scary.

10 Replies to “Agile scared me”

  1. Rob, I think you are right on!!I had a similar conversation with a Friend at a company where I am currently doing a consulting job. He told me that when they started talking about moving to agile 80% of the development team where against it, and only because the management were determined (and they also took a pretty good scrum consultant to work with them at the beginning) they managed to do the transition.He also told me that it was the best move the company had ever done.(I also loved 4-Freedom points – so I may use them and reference you in the future)

  2. Hi Joel,Thanks for the comment.The mindset change is the tricky obstacle. Too many teams are missing out on some of the benefits of agile because they can’t make the mindset change. Freedom is what software developments teams need. Well, freedom with some self emposed structures and frameworks.Feel free to use the freedom points.Thanksrob..

  3. Good stuff Rob. I’ve long been convinced that when people lack confidence and experience they cling to clear structures for reassurance. If their work is rigidly structured in formal processes then that acts as a reassuring crutch. If you don’t really know what you’re doing just work your way down the checklist. Agile is bound to look scary if you’ve got that mindset. I suppose it looks a bit like learning to swim by diving straight into the deep end, rather than pottering around in the paddling pool with armbands and a rubber ring. That makes it important that the human, mindset aspect is taken seriously, so that Agilistas don’t come across as the scary PE teacher who’d just push the kids into the deep end. Careful and perceptive coaching is important. I suspect that many people who’d had your initial experience would have fled for a more familiar environment.

  4. Excellent posting. And a lot I recognize. The challenging part is that with an Agile attitude working in more traditional projects you will function as an eye-opener. This might results in scaring people for thinking beyond borders. It also help as intentional and unintentional people will reshape their boundaries of thinking and perception.To reshape thoughts, freedom is needed. longing for freedom makes discussions happen which empowers good communication. At least I hope :)Regards,Jeroen

  5. Hi James,Thanks for the comments. “Careful and perceptive coaching is important” – absolutely. This is where many teams go wrong. They just jump in, run away and then blame agile for the problems. It takes more than that.I’m glad you picked up on the structure theme as that’s something that is so important to me. there needs to be some, but too much and we run the risk of destroying the creativity and experience. Thanks again JamesRob..

  6. Hi Jeroen,Thanks for the comment. Completely agree that the mindset needs freedom and creativity to foster and grow. Discussions are good and we should encourage them but we need to foster the type of environments that support this.thanks againrob..

  7. Hi Rob. Some great points there. I am finding that the creative testing of software becomes much easier when you are in an agile environment because of the exploratory nature of testing. However, you are absolutely right: the right framework has to be in place to enable good feedback between all the different parties. With that in place it is easy for the team to take control and then the fun can begin…Good post!Stephen

  8. Hi Stephen,Thanks for the comment.A team still needs a framework in order to function but the framework needs to be self created and self regulated to ensure it is working for the team. Software Development is not a one size fits all activity.Glad you are enjoying the creative side of testing.Rob..

  9. You made me mindful. What I think the Agile community needs to send out is the message that there is a place for everyone on an Agile team – no matter which role they have now. Sure, their role may change, but an Agile team seeks out the opportunity to find out how each individual may contribute to team success in her own way. This is why Agile works where it works – and this is one pattern for Agile failure.

  10. Hi Markus,Thanks for the comment. I think you are on to something. Often the agile community is so engulfed in promoting agile that they stop thinking about the people who haven’t yet made the move or are wondering about the basics.Agile is a mindset. It takes a change of outlook and a leap in to the unknown. Some people find that tough.Maybe we should set up an agile support clinic!Rob..

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