We can’t do it because we’re Agile ….

‘We can do it right? Because we are Agile aren’t we …?’ 

‘Agile’ …. its seems to be a double edged sword.  I have often thought, and later attempted to ban the word Agile on projects.  It became a verbal weapon for external stakeholders to make a team yield to their ad hoc whims.  An excuse to throw unstructured requests into a machine that has started to show results.

To counter the argument can be difficult as the stakeholder who wields this statement can be senior and holds a position of influence.  I’ve found that this tends to happen as a team becomes more productive, it almost as if a natural counterweight to productively is swinging in as a company culture takes effect.

<<Insert ad-hoc request>> .. then attempt to throw it into current Sprint.  Followed by ‘‘We can do it right? Because we’re Agile aren’t we …?’  

or even:

<<Insert random and unstructured attempt at something>> … Followed by ‘‘We can do it because we are Agile aren’t we …?’  

Senior stakeholders have a different view of the world – they are focussed on different things.  When a project is delivering, they tend to imagine a world of new possibilities – containing  and defending the team from this does become a skill.

So how do we counter politely …. here are a few suggestions:

  • We need you to create a story, that story needs to be well understood by the team and cannot enter the Sprint until it is.
  • If you can create a story that is well understood now, we will have to take items out of the current Sprint so we can work on it.
  • It’s taken time for the team to mature this approach, our experience of taking in stories is that it is disruptive and doesn’t allow us to deliver on our Sprint commitments.  We can take it in, but we will need a Story
  • We are Agile, however this is based on a process we have developed that needs to be followed to allow the team to function effectively …   please follow the process
  • We need to talk to the Product Owner and get them to authorise

As a team you need to be aligned.  Divide and conquer techniques from the external forces become more forceful  …. always attempt to refer to the Scrum Master.  This is where a well experienced and strong Scrum Master will add real value.

I’ve found the word ‘Agile’ means many things to many people, particularly to those that are not on the ground.  To most it means the ability to adapt rapidly to incoming requests – herein lies the problem.

We need to remove the ambiguity in understanding.   ‘Rapidly’ needs more context – it doesn’t mean now, it means fast – that can be two weeks or more, as opposed to the 6+ months of the old world.  Incoming requests need to be structured, disciplined, measurable and well understood, not ad-hoc.

If we can communicate that, then we are nearly there. Although ironically, I do think there is a strong case to ban the phrase Agile.

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