Agile Sucks!

And why we should listen to the people who say this.

Last week I was walking in the hallway at my office, passing all the team area’s when I noticed a flyer on the wall with the tekst: ’say Agile one more time’ in a Pulp Fiction foto we al might know.

It once more hit me, I am an Agile Coach for quit some time now and the first reaction is aversion. Why are they resisting to something that is so logically to do for the organization and for the customers. Who wouldn’t want a fast and flexibel organization? So, that’s when I started to use this frase ‘Agile Sucks’ at the beginning of some of the training I do for Agile Coaches.

The funny thing is, all of us demand high quality and speed of service when we are customers, and we all are customers somewhere, right? But, all of a sudden when we are on the organization side, working, we think it’s a management thing and so on. So, aversion was my first reaction. But, that’s wrong of me. We need to listen tot he people who say this. Why? Well these people will tell youy exactly what is (still) wrong in your organizational design towards Agility.

They will probably blurt out stuff like: whah, we still have a manager who tells us what to do, the PO is not really a PO but a management servant, we still have all these impediments, we used to do it like this….etc.. Well they are right. Though also very wrong. They are right about all the things that they still encounter and they are also right we need to fix this. They are wrong about that this is duet o Agile or Scrum not working properly. No, we lack to understand that we all are on a long journey towards that Agile place and we are far from our goals yet and probably we will not see the end of it.

The organizations we are talking about are of course the large and complex organizations, but also sometimes the newer organizations that just lost the way somewhere in the will to grow and so on. What we need to work on is the right organizational design. I had the chance to be in the LeSS course twice and the second time it was with Cesario Ramos. He was pointing the usual stuff out about scaling agile and the way LeSS looks at it. What is really a powerful insight for me anyway is the way he explained the ‘design for perfect’ and tob e honest, I repeat this story of his as much as I can, because I really believe this will help us al lto the next step in Agile.

The story is about that there are to types of organizations (fort his example), the type that

looks like a big truck, like this on on the picture. It’s big, designed for moving stuff from A to B, also designed for not to break down. Though when it does it probably takes a while to fix i tand everybody is busy with that. That’s ok, because it’s exactly doing where it’s design for. Moving a lot of stuff from A to B.

Then we have this other type of organization. Like this F1 car. This one is designed for a whole other purpose. Speed! Used one time for one goal. If it needs repair or adjustment it takes 1;93 seconds. You also see a lot of people working on this car and also a lot of people waiting. But still they are able to do this fast!

Well, I probably skipped some important stuff in here, but the bottom line is that our organizations, how they are designed now, is like the truck. Work hard, 100% utilization, 100% ass to chair time. No room for helping others, no room for improvement and so on.

Though with the wind of change and Agile we really need the type of organization to be the one of the F1 car. And that’s where stuff goes wrong now.

Some organizations I work in are making really good progress on Agile, but the mistake I often see is they do a big effort and then they stop! They implement a framework (often some framework that is successful at an other company, not a customized one) , copy paste scrum teams and try to optimize the parts read teams or departments. Then after a while the new framework starts to do exactly what it should do and make it painfully transparant what needs fixing, but that scares the hell out of the most of us. Because now we really need change, the real change. And right there a lot of organizations stop, because of big programs rolling out, because all kinds of important other stuff …

And then we are stuck in the middle, people start complaining that Agile sucks and so on. We should embrace these people, be thankful for the sign and take the next step. Don’t try to manage this away. Don’t get scared and start adding complexity to take back control which brings your organization back to what it was. Keep vision, just evolve into what you need to evolve to. And yes, we as Agile Coaches, Scrum Master, Agile minded are key in understanding this challenge and coach the organization to the next step.

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