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Topics: Agile, Leadership, Scrum
Managers that pretend to be Agile
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Ever had a manager who is an "Agile" leader, yet many of things that they do are anti-Agile? Like not including iteration reviews and/or retros? Like going through the motions of populating a backlog, sprint planning and assigning story points, but then not measure velocity, groom the backlog or follow general sprint principles? What is your experience?
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Sounds like a great opportunity for coaching.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Mar 17, 2019 12:58 AM
Sante Vergini
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Hard for someone to see the need for coaching when they see themselves as an expert in Agile frameworks.
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I was on a Scrum Team once that was led by a very authoritarian Project Manager.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Mar 19, 2019 12:42 AM
Sante Vergini
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I know the feeling Joshua.
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Agile is not about to iterate, retospectives, backlog, sprint planning or story points. Agile is about to put focus on client, quality, value and feedback. All the other things could be used or not a tools and techniques
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3 replies by Joshua Render, Sante Vergini, and Stelian ROMAN
Mar 17, 2019 1:01 AM
Sante Vergini
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Fair point Sergio, but when you have instituted an organization-wide Agile framework (ie. SAFe), broadcast to your customers about the benefits of that framework, and then don't follow many of the things that make that framework successful, then the processes within that framework do become important. Otherwise why institute the framework at all.
Mar 17, 2019 1:35 AM
Stelian ROMAN
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I agree with Sergio. Agile is not defined by tools and techniques. Agile is about accepting, embracing and preparing for change. "Focus on client, quality, value and feedback" are byproducts. There is nothing in planned approach that oppose them but doing Agile right it is the best way to deliver fast adapting to market/client changes.
Planned approach can deliver fast and perhaps cheaper, when the scope doesn't change but has significant challenges when the scope is very fluid.
Mar 17, 2019 2:05 PM
Joshua Render
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Agreed,

I think the point of iterations is to help provide that feedback loop to try and get better- although there are other (and sometimes better, in my opinion) ways to do it.

A lot of my early Agile experience revolved around really badly implemented Scrum. What I learned later is that badly implemented Scrum can be better than well implemented Scrum ---
but I wasn't seeing that in my early days. I saw a guy who led the Daily Scrum, called a project manager, focus not on empowering the team but ruling the team with an iron fist - don't you dare make a decision on how to go about your work without him. He didn't follow Scrum or Agile guiding principles. They adopted the fancy Scrum name and threw on same daily meetings that they called a Daily Scrum, the Project Manager led them. There was no talk of improving our work, ourselves or coming together to unite as a team. Instead, it was lots of meetings under the guise of being collaborative but it failed (I actually recently wrote about my average day under that arrangement using real-life examples I encountered - https://agile-mercurial.com/2019/03/16/i-h...ion-developer/. )

Some of the best functioning teams I have been on didn't concern themselves with following a pre-defined process. They might have started with Scrum, and kept some of the Scrum names - but they ADAPTED and became flexible enough to find what works. They realized that sometimes holding a daily standup every day was just stupid. They realized that sometimes an iteration isn't needed or iterations of varying lengths worked better. So it messed up their structured tracking - the primary measure of success is the produced product, not the velocity of production anyway. They asked us what we thought, they expected us to make decisions on how to get our work done. They didn't force us into meetings because they thought we should know a whole bunch of ancillary stuff not relevant to our work.
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Sante, not only managers but I know many coaches that pretend to be Agile but they do it as a PR exercise rather than implementing Agile values and principles. I've seen many "Agile" implementations that ale limited to picking low hanging fruits like stand-up, kanban board and assigning story points, that no-one has any idea how to estimate. The sad thing is that most of those "Agile experts" didn't even read the Scrum Guide. There are no user stories and story points in Scrum.
POs that don't take any decision nor remove impediments, Scrum Masters that focus on weekly reporting and Jira/Confluence administration are pretty common.
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2 replies by Sante Vergini and Wade Harshman
Mar 17, 2019 1:03 AM
Sante Vergini
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Yes Stelian, I have seen story points added as an almost side-note to the process. They are sometimes not used or tracked at all after being assigned, so why assign them at all when they are not used in estimating scopes of work.
Mar 18, 2019 9:24 AM
Wade Harshman
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Stelian, great comment! I have seen examples of "Agile" coaches who ride in like a bull in a china shop, causing a great deal of damage to the organizations they visit without helping them become more agile.

To be fair, I've probably witnessed even more organizations that hire consultants to help with their "agile transformation," which have no desire to change. They spend a great deal of money to create an Agile façade on the front of their organization, but they resist any meaningful change.
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Mar 16, 2019 5:15 PM
Replying to Andrew Craig
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Sounds like a great opportunity for coaching.
Hard for someone to see the need for coaching when they see themselves as an expert in Agile frameworks.
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3 replies by Andrew Craig, Sante Vergini, and Stelian ROMAN
Mar 17, 2019 1:24 AM
Stelian ROMAN
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Sante, I am 'doing' Agile for more that 20 years but I don't consider myself an expert and I doubt that anyone who truly understands Agile will do. Agile is about "new", experimenting and adapting to change. You can't become an expert. Some people are Agile, some not, you can behave more agile by training and with the suport of a coach but you (as an individual or a s a group) have to have the potential.
Some people confuse Agile with a certain framework. Implementing Scrum doesn't mean that you are Agile, it means that you implemented Scrum.
Mar 17, 2019 8:05 AM
Andrew Craig
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Still sounds like coaching is needed. Expert certainly is subjective, and fleeting at best. Regardless, Agile is not story points, stand-ups, refinement (let's use that term and not grooming please, for you know, obvious reasons), planning, etc. Those are scrum related activities. Even so, what does the manager have to do with those activities anyway? If it is Scrum that has been or is being, implemented, then there would be a Scrum Team to focus on the activities you highlighted, not this one person. Potentially, then, the issue lies with the organization or immaturity of not having the scrum team established yet.
Mar 19, 2019 12:43 AM
Sante Vergini
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:-)
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Mar 16, 2019 9:28 PM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
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Agile is not about to iterate, retospectives, backlog, sprint planning or story points. Agile is about to put focus on client, quality, value and feedback. All the other things could be used or not a tools and techniques
Fair point Sergio, but when you have instituted an organization-wide Agile framework (ie. SAFe), broadcast to your customers about the benefits of that framework, and then don't follow many of the things that make that framework successful, then the processes within that framework do become important. Otherwise why institute the framework at all.
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1 reply by Sergio Luis Conte
Mar 17, 2019 8:36 AM
Sergio Luis Conte
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I am in charge of that right now. SAFe is a framework then the next step to do after the organization decide to use SAFe is to decide how to fill it up with the best tools and practices in accordance to organizational current situation. That is what you have to talking about, not the framework. People will use tools and practices then you have to sell and implement new behavior and way of thinking not the framework itself. Nothing in Scrum said that you have to use user stories, story points, etc. Nothing, there is not line about that inside the Scrum Guide.
Network:15974



Mar 16, 2019 10:03 PM
Replying to Stelian ROMAN
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Sante, not only managers but I know many coaches that pretend to be Agile but they do it as a PR exercise rather than implementing Agile values and principles. I've seen many "Agile" implementations that ale limited to picking low hanging fruits like stand-up, kanban board and assigning story points, that no-one has any idea how to estimate. The sad thing is that most of those "Agile experts" didn't even read the Scrum Guide. There are no user stories and story points in Scrum.
POs that don't take any decision nor remove impediments, Scrum Masters that focus on weekly reporting and Jira/Confluence administration are pretty common.
Yes Stelian, I have seen story points added as an almost side-note to the process. They are sometimes not used or tracked at all after being assigned, so why assign them at all when they are not used in estimating scopes of work.
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1 reply by Stelian ROMAN
Mar 17, 2019 1:29 AM
Stelian ROMAN
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Story Points are one of the hardest practices to master. It's so hard that, seeing how bad the technique is used, their author felt the need to apologise for inventing them.
Story points sizing should not be visible outside the team. Although is possible to track some metrics like velocity, to get to that level require a maturity that takes a lot of time and very few teams will ever reach.
Network:1152



Mar 17, 2019 12:58 AM
Replying to Sante Vergini
...
Hard for someone to see the need for coaching when they see themselves as an expert in Agile frameworks.
Sante, I am 'doing' Agile for more that 20 years but I don't consider myself an expert and I doubt that anyone who truly understands Agile will do. Agile is about "new", experimenting and adapting to change. You can't become an expert. Some people are Agile, some not, you can behave more agile by training and with the suport of a coach but you (as an individual or a s a group) have to have the potential.
Some people confuse Agile with a certain framework. Implementing Scrum doesn't mean that you are Agile, it means that you implemented Scrum.
Network:1152



Mar 17, 2019 1:03 AM
Replying to Sante Vergini
...
Yes Stelian, I have seen story points added as an almost side-note to the process. They are sometimes not used or tracked at all after being assigned, so why assign them at all when they are not used in estimating scopes of work.
Story Points are one of the hardest practices to master. It's so hard that, seeing how bad the technique is used, their author felt the need to apologise for inventing them.
Story points sizing should not be visible outside the team. Although is possible to track some metrics like velocity, to get to that level require a maturity that takes a lot of time and very few teams will ever reach.
Network:1152



Mar 16, 2019 9:28 PM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
...
Agile is not about to iterate, retospectives, backlog, sprint planning or story points. Agile is about to put focus on client, quality, value and feedback. All the other things could be used or not a tools and techniques
I agree with Sergio. Agile is not defined by tools and techniques. Agile is about accepting, embracing and preparing for change. "Focus on client, quality, value and feedback" are byproducts. There is nothing in planned approach that oppose them but doing Agile right it is the best way to deliver fast adapting to market/client changes.
Planned approach can deliver fast and perhaps cheaper, when the scope doesn't change but has significant challenges when the scope is very fluid.
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