The six terminal diseases of the Agile Community

The "Manifesto for Agile Software Development" was written highly talented individuals seeking for "better ways of developing software and helping others do it." Today, "Agile" has become a 
playground for quacks of all sorts. While I am by no way saying that all agilists are like this, Agile's openness to "an infinite number of practices" has allowed really dangerous diseases to creep in. They devoid the movement of impact, dilute its meaning and will ultimately cause it to become entirely useless.


The six terminal diseases of "Agile"

In the past decade, I've seen six dangerous diseases creep into the working environment, proliferated and carried in through "Agile". Each of these diseases is dangerous to mental health, productivity and organizational survival:

Disease #1 - Infantilization of Work

"Hey, let's have some fun! Bring out the Nerf Guns! Let's give each other some Kudos cards for throwing out the trash - and don't forget to draw a cute little smilie face on the board when you've managed to complete a Task. And if y'all do great this week, we'll watch a Movie in the Office on Friday evening!" Nope. Professionals worth their salt do not go to work to do these things, and they don't want such distractions at work. They want to achieve significant outcomes, and they want to get better at doing what they do. Work should be about doing good work, and workers should be treated like adults, not like infants.
An agile working environment should let people focus on doing what they came for doing, and allow them to bring great results. While it's entirely fine to let people decide by themselves how they can perform best, bringing kindergarten to work and expecting people to join the merry crowd is a problem, not a solution!


Once we have mastered disease #1, we can introduce ...

Disease #2 - Idiocracy

Everything is easy. Everything can be learned by everyone in a couple days. Education, scholarism and expertise are worth nothing. Attend a training, read a blog article or do some Pairing - and you're an expert. There's a growing disdain for higher education, because if that PhD would mean anything, it'd only be that the person has got a "Fixed Mindset" and isn't a good cultural fit: Flexible knowledge workers can do the same job just as well, they'll just need a Sprint or two to get up to speed! 


And since we're dealing with idiots now, we can set the stage for the epic battle of ...

Disease #3 - Empiricism vs. Science

I've written about this many times - There's still something like science, and it beats empiricism hands down. We don't need to re-invent the Wheel. We know how certain things, like thermodynamics, electricity and data processing work. We don't need to iterate our way there to figure out how those things work in our specific context.

Empiricism is the idiocratic answer to ignorance, and it's increasingly replacing scientific  knowledge. Coaches don't just not point their teams to existing bodies of knowledge - they question scientifically valid practices with "Would you want to try something else, it might work even better?" The numbers don't mean anything - "In a VUCA world, we don't know until we tried." - so who needs science or scientifically proven methods? Science is just a conspiracy of people who are unwilling to adapt.


Which brings us into the glorious realm of ...

Disease #4 - Pseudoscience

There are a whole number of practices and ideas rejected by the scientific community, because they  have either failed to meet their burden of proof, or failed the test of scrutiny. Regardless, agile coaches and trainers "discover", modify - or even entirely re-invent these ideas and proclaim them as "agile practices" that are "at least worth trying". They add them into their coaching style or train others to use them. And so, these practices creep into Agile workplaces, get promoted as if they were scientifically valid, and further dilute the credibility and impact of methods that are scientifically valid.
NLP, MBTI and the law of attraction are just some of these practices growing an audience among agilists.


And what wouldn't be the next step if not ...

Disease #5 - Esoterics

Once we've got the office Feng Shui right, a Citrine crystal should be on your desk all the time to stimulate creativity and help your memory. Remember to do some Transcendental Meditation and invoke your Chakras. It will really boost your performance! If you have access to all these wonderful Agile Practices, your Agile Coach has truly done all they can!

(If you think I'm joking - you can find official, certified trainings that combine such practices with Agile Methods!)


Even though it's hard, we can still top this with ...

Disease #6 - Religion

I'll avoid the obvious self-entrapment of starting yet another discussion whether certain Agile approaches or the Agile Movement itself have already become a religion, and take it where it really hurts.
Some agile coaches use "Agile" approaches to promote their own religion - a blog article nominates their own deity as "The God of Agile" (which could be considered a rather harmless cases) - and some individuals are even bringing Mysticism, Spiritism, Animism or Shamanism into their trainings or coaching practice!

Religion is a personal thing. It's highly contentious. It doesn't help us in doing a better job, being more productive or solving meaningful problems. It simply has no place in the working environment.



The Cure

Each of these six diseases is dangerous, and in combination, their harmful effect grows exponentially. At best, consider yourself inoculated now and actively resist against letting anyone induce them into your workplace. At worst, your workplace has already contracted one or more of them.

Address them. Actively.

If you're a regular member (manager / developer etc.) of the organization that suffers from such diseases: figure out where it comes from and confront those who brought in the disease. Actively stop further contamination and start cleansing the infection from your organization.

If you're a Scrum Master or Coach and you think introducing these practices is the right thing to do: if this article doesn't make you rethink your course of action, for the best of your team: please pack your bags and get out! And no, this isn't personal - I'm not judging you as a person, just your practice.



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