I just finished reading “Test-Driven Development as Pragmatic Deliberate Practice“. Fantastic article. I highly recommend it to anyone who is actively coding. It strongly reflects my understanding of TDD as a fundamental technique in any Software Development Professional’s toolkit.
I was observing a workshop last week that had been put together to create greater cohesiveness in a large organizational team who needed to create a unified vision about their department.
Initially they were broken up into smaller groups to discuss some of the ideas, issues, and challenges they had encountered. It was obvious how stressed everyone was. People were speaking animatedly with louder than usual volume, there was a great deal of tension, and everyone seemed agitated and uneasy.
Then came the LEGO. Mountains of it. Not just some mismatched pieces either. The kind of LEGO that would have made any child squeal with joy.
Each person was asked to create a model of what they thought their department was like at that moment, using the LEGO. Then another model of what they each envisioned their department could be. They were then asked to combine the ones they thought were best into a grand model for the department.
I immediately recognized this approach of play therapy used in child psychology, and I was curious to see how it would translate to adults in the workplace.
The effects were wonderful. The room that was once filled with heated arguments and loads of stress, had transformed into complete calm. Everyone was so engaged with building their models, they were quiet and relaxed, and whenever there were bursts of noise it was joyful laughter.
Then came the moment of truth, they had to present the large departmental model that they had all collaborated and contributed to making.
They spoke of their vision clearly without argument or dissent. They shared the space freely encouraging others to speak on parts of the model they didn’t know in detail. And when they finished their presentation, there was a long pause of silence where everyone was looking at the model, and in each person’s eyes, I saw pride for what they had accomplished together, and a deep sense of hope for the future where it was absent before.
I guess those colourful blocks really do have some magic in them.
“Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity”
Many people can see some validity or value in this statement, but it may seem strange to them to incorporate this component into business practices or corporate culture. After all much of what is common practice does not reward or encourage those who choose to be truthful.
But as Bob Dylan so aptly put it, “the times they are a-changin’”.
The environment, our capacities as human beings, and our tools to interact with the world are constantly evolving and growing. Yet much of what we do today is based on assumptions about human nature arrived at hundreds or even thousands of years ago when we had less knowledge and understanding about the world and ourselves. Along with the rest of the universe we are evolving as a human species, as such it only makes sense that our higher understanding and knowledge inform our decisions and practices, so we can keep progressing forward.
OpenAgile recognizes the true nature of humanity and how it can work to create a remarkable world in every endeavour. Scientific discovery is revealing this truth about our nature as well, as the video below so wonderfully illustrates.
Be Open, Be Agile, Be Free.
This is “my” blog – I write most of the articles, and it is owned by the business in which I am a major partner. I recently was reviewing comments in the moderation queue and came across this “gem”:
This man is a scammer, agile snake oil only 600, what a bargain. Filthy scamming piece of crap, he’s probably stupid enough to believe his own s**t too.
I’m assuming this person, who is anonymous, is upset either about something I said here on this blog, or possibly something that I (or one of my colleagues) did while we were working with one of our clients.
Several months ago, I was also made aware of a posting about Berteig Consulting (and myself) on Ripoff Report. I’m not going to link to it, but I will quote it here:
Our company undergoes Agile transformation. Our management decided to hire Berteig Consulting
– a bunch of charlatans spending hours talking absolute nonsense.
They promise sky rocketing performance because they teach us to ( than follows a great number of words with no meaning). We must reflect in Buddish manner, talk to each other, discuss obstacles, be truthful, play stupid games,…. They charge company big money for waisting employees time for endless meetings and providing us with useless information.
Honestly, these sorts of comments make me a bit sad, a bit down. But here’s what I think about them.
The Agile “Scam”
Let’s make sure we know what we are talking about. Agile is defined in the the Agile Manifesto. If you aren’t familiar with it, please take a look. Basically, the purpose of Agile is to find better ways of building software that are based in practice. In other words, by people actually building software, and sharing their knowledge, experience and the values and principles that helped them do what they did.
The thing about values and principles is that they are a bit like axioms in formal logic: you can’t prove them. They are a starting point. So, if you read the Agile Manifesto and you happen to think that
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly.
is “Buddish” (whatever that is, presumably Buddhist), and that being “Buddish” is bad or useless, then that is certainly your right. I can’t prove that this principle of the Agile Menifesto is “right” or “correct” or “always the best thing evar.” But I like it. I think it’s good. I believe in it. So I guess I am stupid enough to believe my own s**t. Except that it’s not my own. I didn’t write the Agile Manifesto. But I do fully support it. And, without exception, I think that if work environments tried to put in place the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto, the world would be a (slightly) better place.
So is it a scam? Well, if it is, I’m being scammed too. I work crazy long hours, and although I make a decent living, I’m certainly not getting rich off this Agile thing. When I think of a scam, I think of “get rich quick” or “lose 20 pounds in 20 days” or those sorts of things that promise unbelievable results with little or no effort.
Unfortunately, Agile isn’t like that. Here is how I think of three Agile methods:
- Scrum: incredible results at the cost of incredible pain. This is kind of like I imagine detox. An organization is near death and needs to be revived so extreme measures (Scrum) have to be taken. Requires significant outside help.
- OpenAgile: good medium-term results that require significant investment. This is kind of like making a conscious change from a poor diet with lots of junk food to a good diet: takes discipline, but do-able with good encouragement and support.
- Kanban: modest long-term results with relatively low effort. This is like deciding to change only one thing about your health at a time even if you have lots of health problems. Lots of small wins accumulate over time. Doesn’t require much outside help.
Of course, my descriptions of these are _vast_ simplifications for the purposes of discussing the Agile “scam”. Do professional sports teams or Olympic athletes need coaches? Probably most people would agree they do need that outside help. Is coaching sports teams or athletes a “scam”? Nope. Not all coaches are good, certainly, but coaching is an essential (sometimes difficult) investment to get to that level of high performance.
Of course, not all Agile transformations or adoptions are good. The Agile Manifesto is not easy for most people, teams or organizations to truly embrace. One of the most common problems I see is that an organization believes that it can have distributed or remote team members and somehow have effective communication among those team members. This is just one simple example that comes directly from the Agile Manifesto:
The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.
I guess, technically, the Agile Manifesto doesn’t out-and-out say that a team must be co-located, but boy-oh-boy does it ever make a difference.
And yet, doing radical collocation is damn hard for most organizations. So lots of organizations try to adopt Agile techniques without collocation. And, mostly, their results suck. Or they try to do collocation, but totally botch it.
Any given principle or value of the Agile Manifesto has its own challenges. And so most Agile implementations are distant echoes of the incredible results that some rare organizations achieve when they really get Agile.
My Track Record
As a consultant, coach and trainer, I sometimes wish that I could say that I have never failed, that I have never given bad advice. That’s because in complex human systems, it is very very very hard to sort out cause and effect relationships. If one of my clients fails to have a dramatic transformation is it because:
- I gave bad advice?
- Someone at the client subverted the transformation effort?
- An executive didn’t support it enough?
- Market forces destabilized the transformation?
- The organization’s culture treated Agile as an invasion and fought it off?
- Agile just wasn’t “right” for the organization?
- Agile wasn’t adopted soon enough?
On the other hand, I couldn’t very well be a coach, consultant or trainer if I didn’t have a clue. My colleagues, Paul and Travis (who are named in the Ripoff Reports article), and others whom I have worked with (Nica, David, Mike, Deborah, Christian, another Mike, Allistair, Holleh, yet another Mike,a Michael, and another Michael (wow!), Garry, Jim, Mark, Mary, Sanjiv, yes even another Michael, Julien, Brenda, Derek…) are all smart, experienced, sincere, helpful people… who all know what it takes to produce good results.
The “Secret” Essence of Successful Agile
And, strangely, the essence of it is encapsulated in just a few basic basics:
Truthfulness (vs. hypocrisy, lies and deception)
Collaboration (vs. competition or individualism)
Service to Others (vs. greed and apathy)
and, ultimately, love between people.
So. To those two people who felt they needed to spew out their hatred, their pain, or whatever it is that they are suffering from, I encourage you to contact me directly. My email address and phone number are public. I can’t promise to solve your problem, but I will give you love and whatever help I can extend.