Agile as taboo as WWE?

I was in a large supermarket this week, a large and partially corrupt supermarket, and was discussing the day and how amazing life is.  The principles of agile came into the conversation as they often do and when my good lady exclaimed “agile!?!” I found myself encouraging her to keep her voice down like I do when she shouts that I occasionally watch WWE when in a group of friends.

So why was my reaction to ask her to keep her voice down? I mean the majority in Tesco would not have heard such a word outside the context of daily exercises, the lady browsing the cereals certainly didn’t flinch, maybe trying to disguise her excitement.  It’s an interesting question and I guess stems from having driven the positives of embracing Agile principles within organisations for the last few years and at times getting a mixed reaction.  Friends and family had to suffer my Scrumdamentalist days and colleagues have had varying levels of enthusiasm with agile.

Well after a few moments of reflection I have got over the knee jerk reaction to be embarrassed of lowercase ‘a’gile shouted in public.  Agile is just a word, an overused, often misunderstood and mis-sold term that we must keep working hard to ensure is well represented and practiced.

Many doubters simply state that Agile isn’t a thing it’s just common sense.  I absolutely agree.  Although as humans we strive for something tangible to work towards so simply stating apply common sense in all you do is hard to visualise.  Stating that we should focus on our customers problems, only work on things that our customers value, work on one thing at a time (one piece flow), have autonomy,  purpose and mastery within our work.  Whilst they appear common sense the hard work always comes when you overlay human nature.

Within this pure, common sense driven,  happy and successful group we then add targets, rewards, responsibility and hierarchy then TRUST becomes really hard to maintain.  If I do not feel safe in my organisation then when I am given responsibility over something I will not give complete control to those working with me and for me as I feel exposed. I then do not show trust in others as I need to keep control so that I am not exposed to those above me.  Trust doesn’t flow and autonomy is removed.

Another factor alongside trust is measurement.  Some say they can trust as long as those working for me are hitting target.  How are we measuring this target? give a group or an individual a target and behaviour may change positivity or negatively.  People behave according to how they are being measured, so including the group in discussing how success might be measured is probably a good idea.

agile leads you down a path that is really hard.  Hard to maintain if you are a start-up as you grow and hard to evolve to if you are a large organisation with a command and control management mindset.

agile is hard so ensuring you have people around you who truly embrace, understand and practice the agile principles is crucial

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