Agile resistance – keep calm and carry on

I recently came across a reference to this image/phrase in an online article on the current state of the economy and financial markets.  The image is from an old British poster from World War II — the text was intended to raise morale in the event of a German invasion.  The author of the online article felt this bit of wisdom was applicable to his subject.

I think it also apropos for organizations and teams undertaking a major project implementation in parallel with an Agile Adoption journey.  

Too often I hear people express grave fears and trepidation over introducing changes and new processes into their seemingly tranquil project.  The typical push-back sounds something like “we’re doing fine, don’t bog down the team with new concepts or processes…”, “introducing change at this point is too disruptive…”, or “you can’t ‘short-cut’ this process…”.

The truth is: a) most projects are far from tranquil, b) change is constant and inevitable, and c) Agile is not about “short-cutting” anything.

First off, don’t think you have to go “all agile” all at once.  Identify an obvious area of waste, redundancy or risk that you can focus on.  Try something small, learn from it and improve.

One likely area to start is in the requirements gathering and documentation process.  If you’re still in a traditional “waterfall” model, where requirements are taking months to document and yielding volumes of paper, focus on the absolute minimum details you need to get customer/user buy-in now, then iteratively elaborate on that based on what the delivery team needs to start building the solution.  Remember, we value Working software over comprehensive documentation, and Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

So, since we know things (requirements, priorities, processes, tools, expectations…) always change, my advice to those worried or reluctant to embrace new Agile concepts is to keep calm and carry on.

3 Responses to “Agile resistance – keep calm and carry on”
  1. Manny Segarra 3 says:

    Good Morning Richard,

    I like the ‘Keep Calm’ part, something I will have to incorporate more into my coaching style…!
    The ‘Carry On’ part will come into play when you do start with a small change that has an impact on the system, which causes a big break in the process…This can cause the ‘Whack a Mole’ effect…change the way we do requirements and that causes testing to fall down without a huge document to use for creating tests…if we do a small change and introduce unit testing, this can cause a big break in reducing velocity…’Keep Calm’ will have to be used on management and we all know the workers will ‘Carry On’…but the opportunity will arise to show management how ‘brittle’ their systems really are…this is where the Agile coach can use his experience to minimize the Ripple Effect and introduce the If/Then or Cause and Effect model…

    Example: If we give a small part of the documentation to the test team first, Then they can write tests and hand them off to the development team…this can align the departments and there is no falling down effect…

    Example: If we reduce the work load that we require from development teams, Then they will have the chance/time/bandwidth to write the unit tests that will move the product towards higher quality and enhance the speed at which changes/new features can be added or modified in the future…

    I encounted the ‘we are fine with our development process’ in my last contract…I countered that argument with ‘Gee, I did not know you wrote perfect code and your company was dominating the market !?’ That question put that argument to bed forever…


    Manny 3

    • rdolman says:

      Thanks Manny. I appreciate your input.
      There’s a deeper, underlying element here (that I will address in a future post), be it the cultural, environment, political, psychological or emotional aspects of how people and organizations respond to Change.
      This challenges Agile Coaches to understand and address which of those aspects are at play and provide the guidance necessary for resisters and skeptics to see it and get it. For some, it is only through doing that they will see and accept the value of Agile.

  2. thanks for all information your site very ok

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