1 February 2011

A Survival Guide for New Agile Coaches - You're Not That Special!

I'm the 4th of 5 kids, and thus had 3 siblings precede me through teenagehood. I was actually pretty good to my parents during those years, although I did have one party when I was in my first year of high school. My parents went away overnight, and my younger sister stayed at my Grandparents' home. I had the place to myself, so naturally I wanted to have a party! So, I did.

Sorry to disappoint you, but this isn't a case where 300 people showed up, totally destroyed the home and I made the local, regional and even national news. There were about 15-20 people who came, and if there was any drinking it was done outside. Nothing was broken, no police were called, and as I recall we all had fun.

I cleaned up the house the next day, thinking that I had completely eradicated all evidence of the party. When Mom & Dad came home late in the afternoon, Mom went through the living room, into the kitchen and then asked me how the party went. I was shocked! How could she have known?!

Well, I'm the 4th of 5 kids and thus had 3 siblings precede me through teenagehood! She did compliment me on the cleaning job, though.

Coaching Point 
Every organization I've worked with in my career, even before this whole Agile thing, believed they were special. They were different from everyone else. In a sense that's quite true - each organization has different people, therefore they are different. However, from a software delivery process perspective they really aren't.

I'm willing to concede that there are two fundamental types of software organization - software product companies, and internal IT or software development groups. The former is in the business of developing software products, or their software is part of a larger system. In the latter, the focus of the organization is not the delivery of software - the software supports the core functions of the business. Beyond that, though, I have witnessed striking similarities in organizations in both the public and private sectors, small and large.

So, when you're told that a team can't possibly do Continuous Integration because of their company's policy for committing to source control, ask why they think that their company is different. If they tell you that they have to create a high-level design that must be submitted to and approved by an architecture group, ask why they think their company is different. If they tell you that they can't possibly ship a meaningful increment of software every few months, ask why they think their company is different.

You will hear a myriad of reasons. Almost none of them are valid. Organizations of similar size and function have been doing these things since long before the term Agile was coined. Even more are doing it now.

The people are special. How those people deliver software is not.

2 comments:

TimOttinger said...

Great stuff! As a few notes on the same topic, check the notes on "It Can't Work Here", "They Won't Let Us", and "Superiority Complex".

http://agileinaflash.blogspot.com/2010/02/organizational-objections-to-agile.html

Dave Rooney said...

Indeed - I've witnessed/experience/railed against all of those objections!

Folks - get your own Agile in a Flash cards at http://pragprog.com/titles/olag/agile-in-a-flash !