Skip to main content

Road Rage: You and Your New Agile Teammates


As you join your teammates in your sparkling new agile team room, and you all do your best to quickly "become agile," I guarantee that despite being surrounded by brightly colored index cards and sticky notes, you may sometimes feel...angry.  Here you are, supposedly liberated to be "self managing," out from under the collective thumbs of your corporate hierarchy, and you realize that you are reminded briefly of the Lord of the Flies

Your agile pilot has quickly, as promised, surfaced all possible risks and issues to the project.  That idea sounded good on paper.  In real life, you have ripped the comforting blanket of denial from yourselves, and now, rather than waiting for the UAT team to take the bulk of your business users' thwarted fury eighteen months from now, you already see problems right at the beginning of the project, where you've never seen them before:
  • Inappropriate cost estimate
  • Unrealistic project schedule
  • Slap-dash business case
  • Conflicting time demands on team members
  • Balking integration partners
  • Lack of air circulation in the team room
  • Unhealthy snacks
And you need to deal with those things now, not later.

If you escalate the issues now, as requested by your starry-eyed manager from behind his copy of Agile Software Development:  The Cooperative Game, will you be the messenger who gets shot?  Or do all of your line managers actually intend to support you?  You haven't been through this before.  You are under stress, you're on edge, and yes, that may sometimes make you feel...angry.

Like the Ben Stiller character, Mr. Furious, in the classic 1999 movie, Mystery Men, you want to caution everyone, "Don't mess with the volcano my man, 'cause I will go Pompeii on your... butt."  Indeed.

What should you do?  I've experimented successfully with spritzing rose-scented essential oils around myself, but my best guidance in this area comes from the unlikely source of a brochure I read at the office of the Illinois Secretary of State several years ago on the topic of Road Rage.  I found the equivalent online here, although the original was better, because it included a multiple choice self-test at the end with some awesome questions.  One of them was along the lines of "if someone cuts you off, and you find yourself behind them at a long stoplight right afterwards do you..." and the correct answer was not "approach their car with a baseball bat."

In the agile team room, here's what Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says you should do, (or what he would undoubtedly say, if he were talking about agile software development instead of driving.  I've taken the liberty of substituting a few of the key nouns):

How to Avoid Becoming an Aggressive Agile Team Member
  • Keep your emotions in check. Don’t take your frustrations out on other team members.
  • Plan ahead and allow enough time for delays.
  • Focus on your own contribution. Yelling, pounding on the conference table and honking the nose of your coworker won’t make the project move any faster.
How to Avoid Danger

First, be a cautious, considerate team member. Avoid creating a situation that may provoke another agilist.

Second, if you do encounter an angry person, don’t make matters worse by triggering a confrontation.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Steer clear and give angry teammates plenty of room.
  • Don’t make inappropriate hand or facial gestures.
  • If you’re concerned for your safety, call 9-1-1.
We're all in the same traffic, you guys.  I promise you it will get better.  Go ahead and let your groundhog drive.  But as Bill Murray says in Groundhog Day, "don't drive angry."
 

Popular posts from this blog

A Corporate Agile 10-point Checklist

I'm pretty sure my few remaining friends in the "small, collocated team agile" community are going to desert me after this, but I actually have a checklist of 10 things to think about if you're a product owner at a big company thinking of trying out some agile today.  Some of these might even apply to you if you're in a smaller place.  So at the risk of inciting an anti-checklist riot (I'm sorry, Pez!), I am putting this out there in case it is helpful to someone else.

Here's what you should think about:

1.Your staffing pattern.  A full agile project requires that you have the full team engaged for the whole duration of the project at the right ratios.  So as you provision the project, check to see whether you can arrange this staffing pattern.  If not, you will encounter risks because of missing people.  Concretely it means that:
a.You need your user experience people (if applicable) and your analysts at the beginning of the project, as always, b…

The Agile Business Case

Many agile teams have never seen a business case, ever, and they may even be proud of it.

Our mantra is that we deliver "business value," not just "software," quicker, better, and faster, but if so, we certainly don't spend a lot of time reporting on value delivery, and in fact we may be scornful about "analysis paralysis."  As software developers, we consider ourselves to be doing quite well if we can deliver the software every two weeks (or continuously).  And this is particularly if we've enabled this frequent high-quality delivery through automated testing and automated build-and-release techniques.  We've reduced business risk by making results visible more often, and allowing the business to change direction more frequently.  We assert that along the way of course we're also delivering value.  But how would we prove it?

I've recently posited that we shouldn't even think of doing agile projects without capturing and recording s…

Requirements Traceability in Agile Software Development

One of the grim proving grounds for the would-be agile business analyst (henceforth "WBABA")  is the "traceability conversation."  Eventually, you will have to have one.  You may have seen one already.  If you haven't, you may want to half-avert your eyes as you read further.  It gets a little brutal.  But if you close them all the way, you can't read.
Dialogue:
WBABA:   ...so in summary, we complete analysis on each story card, and then we support the developers as they build it that same iteration!Corporate Standards Guy:  but how do you do traceability in agile?  You have to have traceability.  It's broadly recognized as an important factor in building rigorous software systems. These software systems permeate our society and we must entrust them with lives of everyday people on a daily basis. [The last two sentences are an actual quotation from the Center of Excellence for Software Traceability website!] WBABA: [cowed silence]Corporate Standards …