Sunday, February 26, 2012

Am I pushing change here or what?

Recently, I had a dialogue which went like this ...
I say: From my point of view you have a problem.
Answer: No, we don’t.
I say: I think, you do.
Answer: No, we don’t.
I say - Why do you want me here, if you deny the problem once I think there is one?

There was no question asked like – “what is the problem you think we have?” or “what do you mean by that?”. I am fully aware that the opening was rather provocative, however, IMO this was already the sugar-coated version. I am aware that this is a kind of “fixing on a position” and typically it is not leading anywhere. On the other side, this was not the first discussion, oh boy NO - we are now at a stage where people in the organization want to hear my observations, findings and thoughts – or at least I thought so ...

Right now I feel like like I am pushing an entire organization to become agile!

This is rather frustrating and I get a headache. I remember what Paul said about headache, its not your problem and this is true here as well. I need to go back to my purpose why I am conducting this experiment and why I want to be in this organization. My goal is to learn (whether I solve some problems along the way is pure coincidence – a side effect).

So, what do I learn here: I see a big junk of denial of reality and a “It's not so bad after all” - attitude. This is complemented with a crunchy “ I can't do” and “this is impossible to change” attitude. I face reactions like “Wolfi – now you really lost all your marbles – go away I am busy – stop annoying me you crazy external coach”. This amount of resistance is too much to handle for a single person (even for a big guy like me) by maintaining a healthy mind at the same time.

If you feel to be in a similar situation, the question for you might be what can you do? Here comes an idea: Find alleys, people who think in the same line of principles, others who are stamped to have lost all their screws. And you might be surprised where you find those people … team members in the next room, people working in support function e.g. building CI-system .

Persons who are titled Scrum Master or Agile Coach are not automatically fit for this community. I have seen so called Scrum Masters where I would say that a mouse impresses me more. I have met so called Agile coaches which think that “Agile is a process” and thus they favor “management by metrics”. Those kind of people are the ones which need to be influenced not the ones which influence others in the spirit of Lean, Agile and Scrum.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stop bugging me with those Agile values and principles

As part of a workshop preparation a few months back, I have been warned – better said the host had urged me to avoid to talk about Agile manifesto and principles. Confusing to me – why would anyone NOT like to talk about Agile manifesto and principles. To me, those are the closest kind of a description of management support & guideline, Agile offers you. In Lean Product Development, management support is more in-build and e.g. documented as the foundation of the Lean House.

It seems that besides the struggle of this organization (in which I currently work as a Scrum Master), I find evidence from within this company as well as other companies, that there is a struggle with realization (or better saying implementation or mental models) of the Agile values and principles. People seem to be hasty, and not taking the time to discuss those values and principles, trying to understand them, reflecting what this means to them in their environment. So, what is the solution: make people come together and let them discuss.

Working for us ??? NO!!!

What happened? We tried so hard! What is missing?

I realized that a group of people, who have about the same (I say light; or superficial) understanding of Agile values and principles discuss e.g. one principle in ten minutes. They reach a conclusion and go to the next principle. Give them credit for trying, and remember: those people simple might not know any better. The content of two-day training which they received months or even years back with the 200+ slides, is long forgotten (if the Agile values and principles were even discussed deeply in the first place).

Once more (see previous post “Why an organization needs an (external) agile coach”), I see a clear benefit to have somebody from outside of this organization (might be from within or outside the company) with deeper understanding of the meaning of those Agile values and principles. Then by e.g. asking questions, this coach can guide the discussion into a direction so that the participants get this deeper understanding.

In the current group of (only) six people, a single principle requires a 30min – 1h discussion to get a deeper understanding of what is means to behave, act, “live” the Agile values and principles. How could anybody think that participating e.g. a two-day CSM course gives sufficient time to gain such understanding?

This is only a first step. The next steps would include to understand the current state of thinking, followed by ideas which potentially get the organization to the desired state.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Let the team decide

My journey is not yet over. In the beginning, I committed to stay for two to three sprints (i.e. 2-3 months). The first two sprints are almost over and now the question is how to make this decision: to stay or not to stay? Well, I decided to let the team decide (and the APO). In the end those are the ones who might be affected by my doings the most (besides some potentially insulated and/or annoyed managers).
So simple rules: team consists of eight people and the APO makes nine votes. I went for a clear majority (about 80%) which means I required seven yes-answers in order to stay for one more sprint. The person could vote also no, or anything in between which did not make any difference – only yes counts.
In the end, I got eight out of eight yes-answers, as one person was not able to come at this time. Which means there are more posts to come in the future :)