Agile abuse


I hear and see more signals of agile going mainstream. Customers start asking for an agile project management approach when requesting our services. Agile is becoming a topic on most conferences, more and more books are being released about the subject. Management starts to realize that it’s not just a fad and are interested to see it work.

Great news, right!

As James Lewis  points out (great post by the way!), it’s not agile going mainstream, but iterative development.

Management abuses ‘agile’ to gain more control on their development teams. “It’s a great tool, we can just look at the task board and see how each task is proceeding.”

You can notice it in the little details.

  • A project manager role is still present to control the team and agile project leader.
  • Management and developers discuss over estimates during planning sessions.
  • Retrospectives are criticized to be time consuming.
  • Expressions such as “Iterations are a great way to keep the team under pressure”
  • Technical tasks are not getting into iterations;
  • An iteration start with a huge pile of bugs of the previous iteration.
  • Design discussions are cut short, they‘re a waste of time.
  • Somebody who leaves the office early gets a look and comment.

All of this points to a lack of trust. It’s based on the illusion that developers need to be controlled, so we’re sure they are busy all the time. It‘s a culture thing and a historically grown management style, rooting in the industrial years where processes where highly repeatable and a command and control style did the job just fine.

The signals I’ve listed tell us that management is not ready to take a step back and let loose. Why don’t you try to trust your team for an iteration of two weeks? Let them work out the battle plan. Don’t control, instead support them in any way you can. It’s not important how long they spend on a task or even a feature. They committed to a goal, and if they reach the goal, why wouldn’t we be happy?

Maybe read some stuff on leadership, critical chain, ROWE, intrinsic motivation

By coincidence, I’m hosting a FREE session on Servant Leadership on the 26th of February in Kontich, Belgium. 🙂
If you’re interested in hearing more about it, you can subscribe here.

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.


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