I Want Answers Now!

I’ve become more aware how agile is perceived by different people, recently when I was at Agile Eastern Europe conference.

It was an unusual experience: my usual day job has been for a long time about improvement.  My twitter conversations are about high level lean and advanced agile stuff.I’m floating happily inside my echo chamber.

The conference was an opportunity to meet other people: The newly initiated. There were a lot of scrum masters, product owners, developers and testers who have seen the light. They recently drank the agile kool-aid. They had lots of questions. They just needed answers.

And that’s where the problem started.

People want solutions

Regardless of how you frame it, people want the solution X to problem Y. And they want it now.

There was an excellent live coaching session with Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd. In this session, volunteers from the audience (really brave ones, I admit) talked about their problems and got coached on the spot. (This was an excellent learning experience, recommended).

The one thing that got stuck in my brain is that one of the coachees restated that her problem was that her team was not motivated. She wanted to increase their motivation.

Let me translate: “Agile makes developers motivated. Now I know I’m starting in agile, so there’s a couple of steps I’m missing, but once I understand what they are, my people will see the light.  So all I need is help with those bits, and you trainers with so much experience can grant me that wish.”

Agile is not a solution

Agile does not increase motivation. There is a good correlation between teams that use agile mechanics and motivation. But saying our that be because we do standups we should be more motivated is silly.

Only it doesn’t seem so to the recent convert. Same with any religion, isn’t it? The newly initiated cannot see why others around them cannot make that step, all they need to do is invoke X to get others onboard.

The right thing to do is to confront them with the truth first (Lyssa did – You cannot motivate people, but you can help them get motivated).

Seems like this did not go very well. More like: That’s nice, but I’ll probably find my answer somewhere else.

Agile is an experience

The road is long, and experience is learned on the way. Yet people can’t wait. They know the solutions are there because other people promise they are (I’m looking at you CSM). And let’s face it, if I know there is an answer, why should I wait a year to learn it? Principles and guidelines are nice. Answers now are better.

I’d like to live in this world too. And that’s not going to happen soon.

Until we get there, I suggest a humble addition to the Agile Manifesto:

We value gaining experience over instant clear-cut answers. We’d like to have the ones on the right, but will make the best of the left one.

The learning experience helps us resolve situations. But only from our context. An answer may have helped others. But given in another context, may cause harm. Eventually we can learn how we can solve issues, and maybe even get our team motivated. But it’s never a copy & paste answer.

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