There are many Agile myths which create unrealistic expectations that teams will switch to Agile and all their problems will be solved. Well, this is not the case, and when you here from teams "Agile did not work for us", you are dealing with a case of unrealistic expectations. To avoid this, I put together most common myths I'm used to. Please add yours to the list - I'm sure all of you had a fair share of those.
Myth 1: Agile is a project management framework.
Reality: Agile is a way of thinking. It is a set of values starting with our customer being the end goal and including team collaboration, commitment to quality, focus on people, empowerment and self-organization listed in Agile Manifesto.
Myth 2: Agile is all about processes.
Reality: Agile is about people, their collaboration, and orchestration of value delivery. Processes are a means to this delivery, not a goal.
Myth 3: If we are doing daily standups, we are Agile.
Reality: Agile is a mindset and doing any of Agiel ceremonies, does not mean that a team is Agile.
I took Agile training and got certified. Now I am an Agile professional.Agile (or Scrum) 2-day training and certification does not make you an Agile professional yet. It takes 2 days to get certified and a lifetime to master.
Myth 4: Agile means “no planning”.
Reality: Agile establishes a pre-defined cadence and makes the delivery transparent. Planning is performed continuously: from release to product to sprint planning to daily scrum. In Kanban, cycle time allows to predict delivery with accuracy. Every Agile framework has planning built into it.
Myth 5: Agile is equal to Scrum.
Reality: There are multiple Agile frameworks, and Scrum is most popular. However, there are many other ones: kanban, XP, and many hybrid approaches.
Myth 6: Agile works with software teams only.
Reality: Agile works for any team - software or business. It is important though to implement Agile thinking and build Agile mindset at enterprise level, otherwise teams will face multiple challenges coming from the waterfall mentality.
Myth 7: Agile teams have to be co-located.
Reality: Today's reality is that most software delivery teams are distributed. There are multiple tools for online collaboration and delivery, which are successfully utilized by Agile teams.
Myth 8: Agile works at team-level only and with small-scope projects.
Reality: Agile scales at the program, value stream, and enterprise level. There are multiple Agile scaling frameworks, depending on the organization, culture, and the type of business.
Myth 9: Agile means “no documentation”.
Reality: Documentation is very important. It has to be relevant and sufficient.
Myth 10: Agile work is hard to predict.
Reality: Agile work is highly predictable. In Agile, you know real-time how the team or program is tracking against objectives.
Myth 11: Managers are not needed in Agile.
Reality: Managers have a special role in an Agile enterprise. They build and support teams, remove impediments, provide coaching, support career progression of team members.
Myth 12: You can't pick and choose your Agile practices.
Reality: Agile is a toolbox - there are multiple tools and techniques to build the right combination for each implementation. At the same time, there are Agile non-negotiables, otherwise you will end up with “scrumbut”, such as "we are doing Scrum, but we are not doing retrospective. Continuous improvement is a pre-requisite for being Agile, so it is important to recognize and avoid "scumbuts".
Myth 13: In 2-4 Sprints, we can master Agile.
Reality: Agile is a journey and there is always an opportunity to improve. The most important value of self-sustainable teams is continuous improvement.
Myth 14: The goal of Agile is to increase velocity.
Reality: Agile optimizes value delivery and customer satisfaction, not just productivity.
Myth 15: Agile means "ad hoc".
Reality: Agile is highly structured and disciplined. It's oriented towards value delivery and driven by metrics on a daily basis.
The biggest myth: Agile is a silver bullet.
Reality: Agile is not a sillver bullet, it's a silver mirror. If won't fix the problems, but it will expose them to you so that you become aware of those and fix them. Prepare to work hard on your agile journey, otherwise you will end up in "Agile did not work for us" category :-)
Start with Why Agile community is well known for transparency, supportiveness, and generous knowledge sharing – after all, this is what Agile is about. This is one of the reasons I volunteered for the Coaching Clinic. Having previously coached at BASD as well as the Lean Startup Conference, I expected to meet new people, support them in their exciting challenges and opportunities, and share my experience of nine enterprise-level transformations I was part of - and all of this happened, and much more. Gene Gendel who runs BASD coaching clinic since the first conference four years ago, made every coach and coachee (I am told there is no such word so I made it up 😊) feel welcome and comfortable. Anyone could sign up for any slot for anyone or for a specific coach, and there were always coaches available in the clinic area to answer any questions or to have a friendly chat with participants. It was a great opportunity to meet other coaches who are all great professionals well known in the field, and many of them are good friends since the first BASD. Everyone who came over for coaching was super nice, generous and grateful – thank you all for making this Clinic a success! Now about the specifics.
Who came for coaching? Among those who came over for coaching, there were accomplished and successful professionals in all areas of the enterprise, from large and small companies. Each of them is knowledgeable in their area of expertise and wants to get to the new level of their career, scale their agile adoption, drive continuous improvement in their enterprise, define roles and responsibilities, or hear about how others overcome challenges that they have. There were coachees who are in management roles driving change at the company level and those who are leaders even though they are just starting their career and work at a team level – as a software engineer, ScrumMaster or Product Owner. There were Agile Coaches and people who are completely new to Agile and want to know what it means. There were coachees who works in the entertainment industry, education, government, and transportation. There was one thing in common with everyone I spoke with – they were eager to learn and grow, and this is the reason each conversation was unique and inspirational.
What were the topics? There was no single topic – this is the beauty of coaching. You never know what are the questions you get or the topics you will be discussing but it always turns out to be inspirational for both coach and coachee, with great findings, sharing of ideas, and an opportunity learn from each other. Some of the topics that came up in my coaching sessions were related to scaling agile – how to adjust team-level agile practices to a growing agile practice with all the dependencies, program-level alignment and prioritization of value streams at the portfolio level. There were also topics about agile certification, career progression, and roles and responsibilities. We discussed the difference between a product owner and a product manager, as well as prioritization challenges at the backlog level and at the enterprise level. We spoke about professional challenges and difficult situations – the most important part of the Coaching Clinic is that each conversation is unique and fully targeted to the topics and experience of the coachees.
Conclusion. How different was 2018 Coaching Clinic from prior years? In my prior experience at BASD from the first year of its existence, the sharing and learning spirit is always present. There was a good structure in the organization, there were many coaches so we were able to help everyone, and the coaches knew each other well and had many meaningful conversations as we stayed in the area to be available to anyone who’s looking for us. Also, at times where we had more coaches than coachees, we did not wait for someone to come over, but rather, we engaged in meaningful conversations with conference participants and shared our experience without any specific structure. It was a great vibe, great people, and great conversations. Thank you to my fellow coaches, organizers, and everyone who came to the Coaching Clinic! Thank you to the Coachees for your kind feedback (pictures attached) - your generosity and partnership is the key to the success of our Agile Coaching Clinic.
Transformation agent with experience in business transformation including transition to Agile (Scrum, kanban, lean) and building scaled Agile and Lean organizations. Passionate about motivating people and building great teams.