Unproductive Polarising Extremes


Over the last few years I have observed an increase in polarising extremes. This is occurring everywhere in our modern lives – news, politics, social media. There is an increasing intolerance to engage with another perspective. While comforting, as our world view is not challenged – it does break down social cohesion.

The ability to form groups or tribes is a critical function of being a mammal. In the savannah herd behaviours kept us safe from predators. As we evolved, the ability to form groups enabled specialisms. I can only do so much in a day, so if you focus on one thing – it frees me up to do something else. This means I need to find my tribe.

The fastest way to whittle this down from “everyone” is to find my “not” tribe. I am not into that topic, so they are not from my tribe. This could be as simple as a colour choice. You can observe this with sporting teams, and to push it to breaking point – nations and religions. I identify with this flag, anyone else is “not” me.

Bringing this back to my work in Agile, and social media – there is a lot of this polarising statements as it garners attention and builds a “reputation”. Here are some recent ones:

· Story points are trash

· Scrum is a waste of time

· SAFe is terrible

· Agile is dead

These are noisy and unhelpful statements.


A group of people arguing
A pedantic argument

They trigger the “us and them” response, that entrenches beliefs. It plays into echo chamber thinking instead of encouraging a more empirical approach to learning.

With the work that I do as an Agile coach, I am constantly trying to work from a stance of curiosity with positive intent. Why does a sensible person hold that perspective – what is it that I am not understanding?

This is the scientific approach, not the dogmatic approach.

What I hold self evident may not be the case for you – so lets have a discussion and learn from each other. Probably we both are a little bit correct!

Fundamentally I think that any technique is wrong, I believe that it may be used in a poor way.

Story Points:

If it helps a team understand upcoming work better, fantastic. If it is used to force them to deliver to a schedule, that is terrible.

Scrum is a waste of time:

It’s a framework. Most of the organisations I work with initially don’t have any idea what Scrum is, despite saying they use Scrum. The number of “Agile Coaches” I have met or trained that have never read the Scrum Guide are too many to count. Scrum will reveal not resolve your challenges. What is a waste of time is using Scrum vocabulary on your process (or lack of it).

SAFe is terrible:

It is a very heavy framework, and it is very top down. However it has helped a lot of organisations learn something about a flow of value. Provided you build in the learning loops you can be agile. As it is a scaling framework, any misapplication will generate a scaled crazy response!

Agile is dead:

How can an idea die? What I am observing is a lot of people using this as a starting point to buy their version of Agile. In the way that a lot of the reasons mentioned in the “Scrum is a waste of time” point, many people and organisations professing to be agile have never understood the core principles of agile or read the agile manifesto.

I invite you to not engage in the click bait. If you want to engage in the nonsense of polarising perspective, enjoy this classic Monty Python sketch instead.

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