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Embracing Agile Principles: Moving Beyond the Cult of Personality

There’s a memorable scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian where Brian races off, falls into a spaceship, lands out of the spaceship, and then runs off into the desert. People chase after him, leading to a comical moment where one group shouts, “Follow the gourd!” while another insists, “Follow the sandal!” Amidst the chaos, a hungry person asks for food and is told to eat a juniper berry, proclaiming, “Oh, a miracle! A miracle!” This absurdity perfectly encapsulates a key issue I have with Agile: the cult of personality and the over-reliance on frameworks.

The Pitfalls of Agile Hero Worship

The Cult of Personality

In the Agile world, it’s not uncommon to encounter individuals who are almost revered as messianic figures. They bring with them new frameworks, proclaiming their methods as the ultimate solution to all our problems. This hero worship can be detrimental for several reasons:

  • Stifles Innovation: Teams may become so fixated on following a particular framework or methodology that they lose sight of the core principles of Agile: flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement.
  • Creates Dependency: Teams may rely too heavily on the guidance of these “gurus,” rather than developing their own problem-solving skills and adapting practices to their unique contexts.

Framework Overload

Every so often, a new Agile framework emerges, promising to be better than all its predecessors. The constant stream of “new and improved” methodologies can lead to a few key issues:

  • Framework Fatigue: Teams may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of frameworks to choose from, each with its own set of rules, tools, and terminologies.
  • Misguided Comparisons: Instead of focusing on improving their processes and outcomes, teams might spend too much time debating which framework is superior.

Returning to Agile Principles

At its core, Agile is about delivering value, getting feedback, and continuously improving. It’s essential to return to these basic principles and move away from the cult of personality and the obsession with frameworks.

Get Something Done

The primary goal of any Agile team should be to deliver value. This means focusing on getting something done, no matter how small, and delivering it to the customer. By doing so, teams can:

  • Validate Assumptions: Delivering incrementally allows teams to test their assumptions and ensure they’re on the right track.
  • Build Momentum: Completing small tasks boosts team morale and builds momentum, leading to greater productivity over time.

Gather Feedback

Feedback is a cornerstone of the Agile process. It’s essential to gather feedback from customers, stakeholders, and team members to guide future development. This involves:

  • Regular Reviews: Hold regular sprint reviews and retrospectives to gather insights and identify areas for improvement.
  • Open Communication: Foster an environment where feedback is encouraged and valued, ensuring all voices are heard.

Do Something Better

Continuous improvement is at the heart of Agile. This means always looking for ways to enhance processes, tools, and techniques. To achieve this, teams should:

  • Experiment and Iterate: Don’t be afraid to try new approaches and learn from the outcomes. Iterate based on feedback and continuously refine practices.
  • Invest in Learning: Encourage team members to pursue ongoing education and training to stay current with industry trends and best practices.

Personal Experiences: Lessons from the Trenches

Having worked with numerous Agile teams, I’ve witnessed firsthand the pitfalls of the cult of personality and the framework obsession. Here are a few personal anecdotes and lessons learned:

The Framework Fanatics

I once worked with a team that was obsessed with following a particular Agile framework to the letter. They believed that if they adhered strictly to the rules, success would naturally follow. However, they soon found themselves bogged down by the minutiae of the framework, losing sight of their primary goal: delivering value.

Lesson Learned: Frameworks are tools, not silver bullets. Use them as guidelines, not rigid rules.

The Agile Guru

In another instance, a team became overly reliant on an Agile coach who was revered as a guru. While his insights were valuable, the team stopped thinking for themselves and relied solely on his guidance. When he moved on to another project, the team struggled to adapt and make decisions independently.

Lesson Learned: Empower your team to think critically and make decisions. Encourage them to adapt practices to their specific context.

The Feedback Loop

One of the most successful teams I worked with placed a strong emphasis on gathering feedback. They held regular sprint reviews with stakeholders and retrospectives with the team. This constant feedback loop allowed them to adapt quickly and continuously improve their processes.

Lesson Learned: Feedback is invaluable. Make it a regular part of your process and use it to guide your development.

Practical Advice for Agile Teams

To help your team focus on principles over personalities and frameworks, consider the following tips:

Embrace Simplicity

  • Start Small: Begin with the basics of Agile—deliver value, gather feedback, and improve continuously.
  • Avoid Overcomplication: Resist the urge to adopt complex frameworks or practices unless they add clear value to your process.

Foster a Learning Culture

  • Encourage Experimentation: Allow your team to try new approaches and learn from their experiences.
  • Invest in Training: Provide opportunities for continuous learning and professional development.

Prioritize Feedback

  • Regular Reviews: Conduct regular sprint reviews and retrospectives to gather feedback from all stakeholders.
  • Open Dialogue: Create an environment where feedback is encouraged and valued.

Empower Your Team

  • Autonomy: Give your team the autonomy to make decisions and adapt practices to their unique context.
  • Support: Provide the necessary support and resources to help your team succeed.

Conclusion

Agile is not about following a specific framework or idolizing a particular figure. It’s about delivering value, gathering feedback, and continuously improving. By focusing on these core principles, teams can avoid the pitfalls of the cult of personality and framework obsession, and instead, build a strong foundation for success.

Remember, Agile is a journey, not a destination. Keep moving forward, stay adaptable, and always strive to do better. 🚀


By embracing simplicity, fostering a learning culture, prioritizing feedback, and empowering your team, you can navigate the complexities of Agile and achieve lasting success. Stay focused on the principles, and let them guide your path to continuous improvement.

Connect with Advanced Product Delivery.

APD offer private, tailored training courses as well as business agility and coaching. Our public training courses are delivered by practicing Agilists: Product Owners, Scrum Masters and coaches who are expert trainers and facilitators.

Whether you are looking to become a #scrummaster or #agilecoach, we have a range of internationally certified and recognised #agiletraining courses that are perfect for you. Visit Professional Scrum Training courses for more information.

If you are looking for professional, deeply experienced and skilled #agilecoaches and #agileconsultants to help you transition from traditional #projectmanagement to #agile #productdevelopment, we’ve got the ideal team to help you make that transition a success. Visit our Agile Coaching section to find out more about us.

If you have identified Lean Agile Procurement as a great opportunity to enhance #agility within your organization, visit the Lean Agile Procurement Training course or Lean Agile Procurement coaching page.

#agile #scrum #agilecoach #agileconsultant #agiletraining #agilescrumtraining #scrumtraining #scrumcertification #scrummaster #productowner #leanagileprocurement #apd #businessagility #organizationalagility #productdevelopment #projectmanagement #agileprojectmanagement #agileproductdevelopment

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