This post has been a long time coming and is the beginning of many other posts I’ll have over the upcoming months about Agile Project Management.
I’ve been working as an Agile practitioner for about 10 years now and I truly believe it provides more than a modicum of value for many organizations.
However, I’ve seen more failed Agile transformations than I have successful ones.
So, this is where this gets controversial, and I may become a pariah in the Agile community.
The root cause of any failed agile transformations usually falls on people. Not beneficiaries of the transformation and the teams of people that are tasked with utilizing the process. I blame the executors of the transformation, the Agile practitioners, the Agile coaches, Scrum Masters, Project and Program Managers, Team Leads, Product Owners and all people tasked with rolling out a successful Agile transformation…I blame US.
I’ve played many roles in this, shamefully.
**I have lead teams that I’ve forced into an Agile Project Management methodology.
**I have played a part in trying to transform low performing teams into high performing teams via an Agile transformation because that’s what some leader heard will happen when you go Agile; suddenly teams perform.
**I’ve spent countless hours designing an end-to end Agile process that will work for an entire organization and thought I had all the “i’s dotted” and every “t crossed” only to find out that around 20% of the people that the process was designed for thought it was effective and useful.
I finally realized that maybe it’s not them. Maybe, just maybe it’s me. No…it is me.
Why now? Why am I writing this open challenge to the Agile community? The idea came to me when I was watching “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” on HBO Max. In the show the Lakers’ new coach, Jack McKinney, was explaining to the team how they were going to change the pace of the game utilizing the Lakers’ fast break. He said:
A classical offense is a lot like classical music. Coaches put a bunch of notes in place, x’s and o’s, and all the players are supposed to do is hit their cues.
It makes a pretty melody, but it’s the same song every time and everybody in the building knows exactly where it’s going.
So how does an offense go from classical to jazz?
They put the music in the players hands.
The point guard is your melody; he sets the tempo; he keeps the pace up.
Your wings, they harmonize.
Your big man on the trail, he’s your bass.
Instead of chaining them to spots, you keep them moving, improvise so they can flow.
Like flocks of birds and butterflies.
Because what seems or sounds like chaos, is actually the symphony of Mother Nature.
Everything unpredictable has underlying patterns, and when those patterns become reflex, individuals become an unstoppable force. Jazz. That was it. That’s what we in the Agile community have been missing the entire time. We don’t need to force people to follow a script, we need to be better coaches that pull plays from Agile playbooks at the right time with the right team. At the end of the day, Agile Project Management is jazz.
It’s about people over process. It’s about making the team better. It’s about putting the music in the hands of the individuals on the team. It’s about freeing the team from the chains of process to keep them moving, improvising so they can flow. It’s about finding the underlying patterns and helping those patterns become reflex so that the TEAM can become an unstoppable force.
We can change. We must change.