Last Friday, I was attending my super-amazing company’s annual internal conference and was fortunate enough to be in attendance at a talk (thanks Mitch Harris) on our corporate culture, rapid growth, and changes – from a developer’s perspective. My takeaway, and the reason why I’m finally coming out of homeostasis to write about it, is pretty simple: I have been taking agile for granted.
I remember when I was so excited about agile that I couldn’t wait to try these principles on EVERYTHING. Grocery shopping? Check. Music compositions? Check. Parenting? Check. My entire life changed because of what I discovered in those four values and twelve little principles. I was, and probably still am, a bit of a zealot.
My zeal, along with a hearty and lengthy career in tech, eventually brought me to my current role: I’m the director of agile coaching at Asynchrony Labs, World Wide Technology’s software development arm of about 500 people. And it is without a doubt the best role I have ever had. I teach, train, speak, coach and mentor agile just about every day of my life (it’s also the reason I haven’t blogged in a year!). Recently I was even put on the management team, which means that I have the responsibility of representing agile principles and mindset in everything that team takes on. That influence, and the number of people’s lives impacted, is profound. I feel immense gratitude for my leadership in making the decision to prioritize our agile values in this way.
So why do I of all people think I’ve taken agile for granted?
Simply put, it’s because I am surrounded by awesome agile people. I assume that because our company has been so centered in agile values and principles for so many years, and because we have so many respected and effective agile people working here, that we will continue to grow and change in a manner that coincides with those values.
The problem with this assumption is that growth and change causes people to feel doubt and fear, which can lead to feeling a loss of mastery and autonomy, and they may start to behave differently (even if they still love agile). People start questioning, am I doing this thing “right” anymore? Is this still the way the company wants me to be? Do we still value the same things as we once did?
Change is constant, and change management theory teaches us that leaders can never really over-communicate when navigating an organization through changes. Even when that organization is an agile one that embraces change, the people within the company still need to be reassured, validated, and encouraged to own and live out their agile values. The talk I attended had some great suggestions (like listening to your agile coaches, doing lunch and learns, structuring and sharing team experiments with the rest of the organization, and starting an agile guild, among other things). I love these ideas, and thought of a few more that I intend to experiment with soon. In short, I am committed to not taking agile for granted, even when I work in the most agile organization I’ve ever seen, because agile is still just as exciting as the first time we tried it, and still just as effective – and the people I serve deserve nothing less than an agile zealot.