Here’s what’s on my mind today. I don’t know if you’ve heard a lot of this Agile talk about it transforming the world of work to be more collaborative and more value-focused, but I’m hearing a lot of people blowing smoke about how they’ve got everything figured out. And I’m concerned.
Hey, guys, hate is not an Agile value, alright?
And in particular, I’m looking at change agents. I’m looking at a lot of people that are saying things like, “Every project manager should be taken out and shot,” or “All PMOs should be fired and laid off, and those people over there, they just don’t get it. And that’s not Agile.”
We’re going to walk through a couple of these catchphrases that are really popular amongst Agile coaches or Scrum masters… including myself. I’m guilty of this too. When I first started these Morning Fewell videos, I had to do a mea culpa about my own Agile attitude.
The first step is to watch your own language.
And when I say watching your language, not profanity. Be safe for work, but about the edge or the judgment in the way that you’re explaining techniques or issues or innovations. If you’re saying, “That’s not Agile,” that’s a little judgmental. We’re the ones that are trying to encourage an inclusive environment, so we should say things, instead, like “I appreciate it, but that policy may not help us to get to the innovation that we’re going for.”
Or “Those people over there, they just don’t get it.” Well, whose fault is that? Isn’t that our fault? Aren’t we the change agents? Aren’t we the ones that are supposed to inform and educate? Instead of saying, “Those people over there just don’t get it,” maybe we should be telling ourselves, “We have a lot of work to do on messaging, on alignment, on education.
And so watch how you share things. Regulate your own frustrations, because you’re the role model. You’re the one … Everybody else is frustrated, too. Everybody else is going to be lazy with their language, finger pointing, and complaining. You don’t get to be the finger pointer and the complainer if you’re a coach or if you’re a change agent. Instead, try to explain things with a little bit more of a collaborative tone, a growth mindset instead of an us versus them mindset.
And once you start regulating your own language, then, finally, you might get an audience with all of the people that are the problem, so to speak. And then, once you get that audience, you get to listen to the other side, because there are two sides to every story.
Every great story has conflict.
Many of those conflicts have villains, and we remember, for example, that Luke fought Vader until he realized he was his dad, and there was a problem there. And then, Harry Potter fought against Snape. “Oh, you’re so … I don’t like you.” And then, he realized, “Wait, there’s more to that story.” And then, even Katniss fought up against Snow and won, until, we discovered there’s a deeper, more pervasive human condition that we’re talking about.
And so the reality is, it’s not us versus them. There’s nuance, and when you sit down and listen to the other side, when you start saying, “All project managers should be taken out and shot,” you know what? Listen to what a project manager has to say. She might say, “I just want to prevent more project failure.” Or that other Agile expert that’s coming in with a different framework or a different methodology, sit down and listen. He may say, “Well, my proprietary Agile methodology emphasizes short delivery cycles by specialized action times.” And you may say “Well, that sounds a lot like mine. Maybe we have more in common than I thought at first. Maybe we have a lot more in common in our passions and our convictions than meets the eye.”
Sit down and listen to the other side, and you might start to discover that we need to attack the problem and not the person. We attack the problem and not the person. Don’t fall for that habit where, well, we need a villain. We have to have a villain.
The word waterfall … it was never coined by anybody whoever did it. The word waterfall comes from Agile people like me who needed a name for the enemy. You’ve got to have a villain.
Once we sit down with those project managers and discover that delivery is the issue that we both want to prevent failure, we can work together to triage the most common issues. And once we sit down with those other Agile people that have a different framework and different strategy, you know what? We might be able to sit down and work together and share some alignment on our approaches.
And so my challenge to you, Agile champion, Scrum master, coach, is reflect the vibe that you want to create.
Don’t attack the person, if you believe in people. Or don’t cast a judgmental tone if you don’t want to have a judgmental environment anymore. This is hard. It’s hard, because we’re all passionate about changing things for the right way. But you know, there’s this human element.
I fall victim to it sometimes, and I’ve got to remind myself that, “Jesse, you’re starting to cop a little bit of an attitude. Hate is not an Agile value. Stop it.”