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Stop normalizing unprofessional behaviour in the name of agility

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In Scrum Events across the world, I hear repeated the phrase “that’s how agile works” when describing behaviours that are both unprofessional and the very opposite of an agile mindset. These behaviours will inhibit agility and are a result of a lack of understanding of the underlying principles.

We need to stop normalising unprofessional behaviour and call it out whenever we hear it.

In order for agility to function, we need professionalism; a focus on doing things right so that we don’t end up with our beards caught in the mailbox (Norwegian saying). Agility requires more planning, more knowledge, more diligence, more discipline, and more competence… not less! It’s harder to use agile practices as we are expected to have a usable product at all times, well, at least every iteration of a few weeks. We are most definitely not agile if:

  • We don’t have a usable increment at the end of every iteration –
  • We constantly take on work that we don’t understand enough to have a reasonable degree of certainty that it will be completed within the timebox
  • Our team members don’t understand how their daily work contributes to the goals and vision of the product
  • We have a Tactical Goal that reflects a list of work to be completed
  • We assign work to individuals and hold them accountable as such
  • We create and organize ability-based groups within our team; programmers, testers, operations
  • You have a deployment process that is not within the control of the Scrum Team or is linear and bureaucratic.
  • You have a fixed set of requirements that cant be changed based on feedback

In the traditional world these behaviours were still present, however they were mitigated by time… lots and lots of time.

Think about the lead software engineer at Volkswagen that got a 3-year prison sentence for following orders and writing code that disabled the catalytic convertor when under emissions tests.

Think about the engineers at Boeing that dont yet know their fate over the 737 Max.

When you don’t know that these behaviours have a negative impact on our ability to deliver its ignorance, once you know and do it anyway, it’s incompetence. We have a moral and ethical responsibility to do the right thing, to protect our customer, our company, and ourselves.

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