Doing vs Being

As I mentioned in my prior post, I’ve come a long way in a short time in terms of my understanding of Agile… with much further to go.  In that post, I specifically acknowledged my misuse of the Scrum vocabulary over the years that must have confused and frustrated those who were much more immersed in Agile cultures.

One phrase that I frequently hear uttered in my conversations these days is “we’re doing Agile”.  I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of using the phrase in the past and sometimes still catch myself as I begin to say it today.  However, now that I’ve seen and experienced what makes a team truly Agile, I realize buzzwords, tools, and ceremonies aren’t enough.

I recently had a conversation with a Scrum Master who described his team as doing Agile.  He told me that the team had recently unanimously voted to move their retrospective to a different time/day within the sprint but were vetoed by a Project Manager.  In addition to this, the same PM regularly cancels their retrospectives altogether so that they only end up taking place once every 3-4 sprints which is causing significant frustration and disorder within the team.  Sound familiar??

It’s become clear to me that an organization can be doing Agile by cherry-picking practices, ceremonies, and tools from the Agile toolbox but in nearly all of these cases, they’re missing out on what they set out to do.

While working with another team, I experienced a situation that was handled quite differently than the example above.  Only a few months prior to this event, the organization this team was a part of had determined they were going to fully embrace Scrum and had assigned someone to be their Agile Transformation Lead for this effort.  This team needed a new Scrum Master.  The team interviewed external candidates and determined who they’d like to move forward with.  Their Agile Transformation Lead had reservations about their selection and shared them with the team.  After that discussion, it was ultimately decided that he needed to entrust the team to make this decision if they were truly interested in being an Agile organization.  Even more importantly, this demonstration of trust and ownership being delegated to the team reinforced a cultural shift, not just the introduction of new ceremonies, tools, and vocabulary.

I’ve come to appreciate that being Agile requires a team to embrace a mindset that, in turn, creates a culture of healthy relationships, trust, safety, emergence, innovation, etc.  From what I’ve experienced, being isn’t as easy, but it’s worth it!

Is your team doing or being Agile?


If you’re interested in reading more about this, here’s an article I believe you’ll find insightful:

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