Agile Odyssey

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The Comfortable Lie

ScrumPosted by Shane Billings Thu, September 03, 2015 07:54:23

I've been doing this scrum thing for a while. At times I am encouraged by those who readily accept the changes presented to them. Other times I find it discouraging when people reject the benefits provided by scrum. Culture change is hard with whatever you are trying to do, and this is no different.

My discouragement is my problem though; not theirs. Putting my emotions aside, I have thought and pondered extensively upon why agile is so hard to accept. Certainly, there are as many reasons as there are people who are not going to accept agile methods. Not the least of which is simply an aversion to change.

Where does that leave us? What are some of the other big objections? Let's delve a little into the abstaining abyss embraced by the naysayers.

The most prevalent alternative to agile is the ever entrenched Waterfall Method. As one dives deep into the differences, the benefits of agile become readily apparent - except for one glaring omission. Even the Agile Manifesto speaks of it. "We value responding to change over following a plan."

Think about it. We value change. Who does that? Who likes change?

"Come join us," we say.

"Wait, this is way different than what I'm used to."

"Yea, but it's better."

"I don't know about this."

"That's okay. You don't have to know. We adapt to change. Not only that, but change comes so rapidly, you will never know for sure anything again," you explain realizing in retrospect that there probably was a better way of explaining this when you hear the reply.

"What?" Yup. There it is.

That's right. We tell them they will never know everything and, therefore, must adapt as necessary. Change when needed with no idea when or where the opportunity will present itself. And we want a lot of it-frequently in fact. Just keep the changes coming. So very uncomfortable.

Compare that to waterfall.

"I want to stay here."

"Why?" You're shocked, yet fascinated - like when you see someone running with a couch down a busy road at midnight. I'm speaking from experience here.

"I know this. But I can also plan out my entire development schedule." They seem pretty confident.


"You bet. As a matter of fact, I don't even move on to the next phase until I have the last one all figured out. This helps me predict exactly what I will do years in advance."

"Wow! How can I do more waterfall?" you respond.

Wait! What? You seem pretty easily swayed. I know it's tempting, but just hear me out. It's a lie! The comfort; the panacea; the peace; it's all a lie. No one knows the future no matter what. Everyone must adapt. They may think that they know everything that will happen to the project, but they don't. To be clear, I don't think they are dishonest. They believe it.

But it's not true. It's just a way to feel good. It feels good as they assure management that everything will work out as planned. It feels good as they control every move of the employees. It feels good as they try to work to the plan and make everything fit in a box. It feels good as they embrace the comfortable lie of waterfall.

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