During my LAScot keynote last year I explained that when we are immersed into a new culture we can see all of these things that are alien to us.
As we adopt the values of the culture around us, we no longer see the things that are alien to us. Adopting the values of the culture around us is important. It makes us one of the “us” tribe, rather than “other”. It means we feel comfortable and we can drawn emotional strength from being a member of the tribe. We feel safe.
When I was a practitioner, before Agile was considered “best practice”, I was part of the team. I was part of the tribe. We worked together to deliver using Agile. Everyone went through their own learning journey and understood the value of Agile to them personally. They were there because they chose to be. We were content to be allowed to work the way we wanted and did not care how others worked. Now Agile, or the Agile Industrial Complex as Dan Mezick refers to it, is imposed on Organisations as “Best Practice”. As a coach, I participate in this imposition of Agile on the Culture of Organisations. As a coach I try to help individuals understand the value of agile so that they can “opt in” to their own personal journey. The companies I work with do not force Agile on the teams as the teams self select into Agile. However we are introducing a new culture with a new set of values. A new culture that the existing culture supports in some ways but opposes in more significant ways.
As a coach it is important to live the values of Agile, such as self organising teams, which sets you apart from the existing culture. In fact, as a coach you lose your ability to see problems if you become part of the existing culture. You are no longer appalled that management imposes organisation or targets on the team. You are no longer appalled when management start estimating points for the team so that the team can hit deadlines that have been imposed. Management do this for expediency because doing it the Agile way is too hard and takes too long. Doing it the Agile way means winning hearts and minds. Doing it the Agile way takes too long for senior management who want results for their impatient executives. The forces and motivations are easy to understand, but real change is hard and takes time.
This inability to assimilate into the existing culture is hard, especially on long term enterprise wide transformations. It is this needing to hold firm to Agile values that is exhausting. It is made harder because as a coach you need to maintain empathy for those who have not yet started their learning journey, to maintain empathy for those who oppose you.
I find it is only possible if you have a support network of like minded people to understand and empathise with you. And that is why I’m so grateful to Tony, Marc, Kate, Jitesh and the crew for reminding me I’m not crazy. That there is another way.
Fundamentally it about understanding that an Agile Transformation is about changing Culture, which in turn is about helping people adopt a new set of value. The Agile Industrial Complex picks and chooses the Agile Practices it sees as important. It imposes those practices rather than promote the principles and value of Agile.
So as I start my two week of rest, I would like to thank all of you whose support makes the Agile Coach role bearable. Who provide the creative ideas and emotional support that make it possible. Thank you all and merry non denominational pagan based festival of peace to all.
NB. This is a personal experience. I make no claims that anyone else feels the same.