The Agile Tribe

The Tribe has spoken …It’s (fr)agile…

on February 22, 2010

Author: André Harvey

Extending to Susan’s recent post, “Agile is not the holy grail!”, I’d like to add to the provocation by suggesting that ‘change’ is the Holy Grail and momentum is key; and critical to unlocking the benefit and to mitigating the fragility of a change movement is to know the Whys and What Fors.

For those who are personally, or though their organisation, embarking on an Agile methodology change movement – be it adoption, re-acquaintance or the velvet glove of a performance push ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Do you understand why you use Agile and what the benefits of Agile are?
  • Could you explain it to your mum?

These are important questions. If you don’t get it, how will you become a catalyst for change? An Agile advocate? Change movements are fragile and need your help.


  1. Easily broken, damaged, or destroyed; frail.
  2. Lacking physical or emotional strength; delicate.
  3. Lacking substance; tenuous or flimsy: a fragile claim to fame.

Teale Shapcott gets it – for her it’s about usability. No point in building the world’s best ‘thing-a-mijig’ if it’s horrible to use. If your staff and colleagues don’t like using it, what type of customer experience do you think will transpire?

Real world example of the above:

I recently opened an account for my daughter at one of the major banks. A seemingly simple request – I thought. It took 2 hours! The entire time all I heard was how poor the system (read: technology) is and how the users experience is worse – no mention of the customer! Perfect example of an implementation performed in isolation of its users and with little OR no thought for its end-customers.

This is where Agile kills its competition – iterations, prototypes, tangible and timely improvements. To market faster with expectations met and the value of the customer experience in top of mind. Even my mum understands the commercial significance of beating competitors to market.

Mark Palmer also gets it – Based on his post – Agile as a Fundraising Tool about workshop facilitation outside the software development environment. It’s a way of thinking and acting. Anyone who can get ~40 people to work through, short-list and agree on 5 key ideas in an hour is worth his weight in gold (Gold bugs take note – resources will boom!). The fact that he’s taken an Agile concept and broadened its application to rugby in a non-corporate setting is advocacy beyond expectation. It takes courage to suggest and commitment to follow through. NOTE: The Agile Academy should sign this man up for a coaching role!

Seek out those that don’t understand…and then listen, Don’t preach.

Humans have been blessed with a physical design that all but encourages you to listen first, then speak: two ears and one mouth. The least we could do is use our human design in its correct ratio.

In my experience there will undoubtedly be and will always remain some resistance to change. This is a good thing. Creative tension so to speak. It keeps us on our toes. Makes us hone our stories.

A constant reminder of change’s fragility. Seek out the resistance. Understand why it is is isn’t happening. As Susan’s post indicated – it might be justified.

This is where Fiona’s earlier blog post on Leadership is magic, whilst not strictly Agile related, which is refreshing, it’s a nice pointer for when you get stuck with a problem or face an explanation that needs more weight behind it – seek to understand first, then find help.

A behavioural science interjection – in a recent McKinsey article, a case study was performed on interactions with customers via call centres. Whereby, if the call had a bad news element the operator would bring it [bad news] forward to the beginning of the call. In doing so, the operator was then able to coach the customer through the news, in turn giving the customer a sense of control of the outcome and improving customer satisfaction.

What I’m suggesting is something very similar for our colleagues that don’t understand the subtleties of Agile or any change movement for that matter.

  • Seek them out.
  • Then coach, don’t preach.
  • Give back control but take the lead.
  • Give your advocacy stories purpose and meaning – make it an fragile claim to fame.
  • Ps. Final Food for thought – Imagine Pixar without story boards.


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