No, you don’t want agile. or do you?

Door Patrick Verheij

Very often, people come to me to ask if I want to help them “implement agile” or show them how to “adopt an agile way of working” or coach them “to collaborate agile”.\r\n\r\nI love that. Seriously. Because in most cases such people are highly motivated, energized, and inspired. They heard some great stories about teams working agile or they just returned from an awesome training, workshop or presentation.\r\n\r\nWouldn’t you want to talk to such people? Even though you know that it sounds a bit silly what they ask of you?\r\n\r\nOf course! But it’s my job as a coach to guide them to see their real needs instead of having them run into an agile adventure that misses…the point of agile.\r\n

“Becoming agile” is not a goal in itself.

\r\nYes we can have a debate about that. Nevertheless, in most cases people that ask me to implement agile have challenges that some need attention first before we start talking about an agile way of working!\r\n\r\nAn example:\r\n\r\nRecently I talked to a program manager who asked me to help him implement an agile way of working for a large and ambitious program. I could easily have grasped the opportunity and said “yeah, let’s do it!”. Alas, after some questions and a bit of discussion I found out that this program did not have alignment about its goals among the stakeholders. Despite that, the program was already running for almost a year without tangible results except for some awareness. Besides that, there were a lot of loose ends.\r\n\r\nThe whole “agile way of working” question sounded to me like “what else can we do to have more fun in the program that makes us look busy and keeps us from doing scary stuff like delivering real value”.\r\n\r\nSo I carefully found out if that could be the case and then proposed to first look at the effectiveness of the program and THEN see if agile in some way could help to get it on track.\r\n\r\nThat created some real awareness!\r\n\r\nNow I am convinced that agile thinking and acting will help this program. In that sense I prefer to start with the goals and governance of the program itself.\r\n\r\nAnother example:\r\n\r\nA program manager wished to start with an agile project and asked me to advise him on how to do that and how it would fit in his program. While discussing the topic, this program manager became quickly aware of the consequences of having an autonomous, mandated agile team running about and the amount of change necessary to make such a team effective.\r\n\r\nFortunately, this program manager loved everything I told him and was eager to learn more. My story connected to his own (admirable) attitude and professionalism. Nevertheless it changed his original idea of “just implementing agile” completely and made him crave for more insight and help.\r\n\r\nSo my point is that any decent coach will always have a meaningful dialog with anyone asking about agile before jumping to action and getting to work with agile practices and stuff.\r\n\r\nGreat coaches find out “why” a person wants agile. They provide deep insight in how what that person tells them makes sense with respect to agile. Inspect…then adapt.\r\n\r\nNext time you ask anyone to implement agile for you, check if you have the meaningful dialog I mentioned. If not, you might need another coach 😉

Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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