Agile, you've been a bad friend.
I like agile, but I’m starting to wonder if it likes me back.
I have every reason to like agile development: it saved me from the dangerous, isolating waterfall processes that I suffered under for ten years. Heck, I wasn’t even allowed to talk to the internal customers that used my software! That job was an analyst in another department, in another building.
But in the past few years, as I’ve worked with so many development teams, I’ve seen agile start to be kind of a jerk. Wait that might sound too harsh. Maybe a “pointy-haired process” is a better term.
- I’ve heard agile convince executives that teams didn’t need managers, but would be “self-managing.”
- I’ve seen agile shame and bully people during the retrospectives.
- I’ve seen agile harm projects by spending 70% of the cost of cucumber UI tests.
- I’ve seen agile get snarky when people question it’s rituals, like the stand-up meeting or the idea of measuring in points.
- I’ve seen agile spend hours in a back room producing charts that no one cared about, feeling like that was project management.
When I first met agile, this wasn’t at all how it seemed. The books I read only talked about happy people, happily working together, with happy customers.
Life was simple and could be put in neanderthal terms: Waterfall bad. Agile good.
Surprisingly in all the research, I’ve read about what makes developers are happy, why people are loyal, and why they still work for you has nothing to do with agile. I was surprised about this!
Instead, it has to do with YOU. No matter if you are a team lead, tech lead, manager, boss lady, IT manager, VPE, CTO, leader, or owner, your relationship with them is what matters to them. It’s the lens they see the entire work experience through.
So, if agile’s been a bad friend to you too, maybe it’s time to remember that it’s a tool, not a goal. Lead it, don’t let it lead you.
When it doesn’t work for you, ask the team how y’all should change it. When it does work for you, give high-fives all around.