one size fits none

Dave Nicolette tells what happened when Jon Kern (one of the originators of the Agile Manifesto) gave a talk on agile development to the managers in a large corporation’s IT department.

“Jon knows his stuff, and the content of his presentation was right on the mark. But I got the distinct impression he is unaccustomed to dealing with an ignorant, hostile audience. He answered their questions in a way that suggested he had overestimated their knowledge of the underlying concepts. His answers would have been appropriate for an audience that already had a general idea what agile methods were about, and who were looking for a little more information. Instead, he had an audience who would rather stick their fingers in their ears and chant “La, la, la!” than to be confronted with the possibility that Firesign Theatre had been right all along.

Dave doesn’t say what forces brought Jon into his workplace, and I’m guessing when I say it has all the hallmarks of management preaching. Does it do any good? I don’t know. In every situation like this (I’m guilty of having done it myself) there will be those among the audience who are ready to hear the message, and for whom this is exactly the spur they need to jump in with both feet. And there will also be those who are antagonistic to the idea, and who entrench themselves even more after such an exercise. excluded Mary Poppendieck suggests that the nay-sayers should be disenfranchised, pushed out into the corridor while the rest get on with whole-hearted enthusiatic agile adoption. Presumably because that’s the cheapest option in both the long and short term. These lost souls will then either leave (she hopes) or try to change things back, or snipe and spit from the sidelines. Only the first of these presents a win-win opportunity, but surely it doesn’t have to be done that way? Is it just possible that those folks actually have something valuable to contribute as the organisation moves forward? Or is the cost of including them too high, when everyone else just wants to get on with it. Include or exclude, the result will depend on the individual. And those around them. What forces created an organisation whose strategy is heading one way (towards agility) while some of its staff actively oppose that strategy? Was someone being less than authentic when the hiring was done? Or has someone in a leadership position learned something that ultimately will require a different workforce? Useful to know the difference when attempting to instigate change…

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2 thoughts on “one size fits none

  1. Might some of those who fear change be concerned that they are effective at traditional methods (compared to their colleagues) and likely to be less effective relative to their colleagues when using agile methods with the different set of skills that are needed, and hence a threat to their possibilities for advancement.

    If manager A has a productivity of 2 with traditional methods and 3 with agile methods, and B has 1 with traditional methods and 4 with agile, in some cultures A will now be considered worse than B. There needs to be a shift in culture so that A is now rewarded for a 50% increase not penalised because they are now considered the lesser manager.

  2. Pingback: how to start organic change « silk and spinach

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