Agile in Daily Life – Are we becoming slaves of what is written in books?

I was sitting in a wheel alignment shop few days back, waiting for my turn, and there were about six cars in the pipeline. My attention was caught by the way the three people, including owner of the shop, were working.

There were three types of work going on:

  • Fill the tires with air and check the balance
  • Do needed alignment
  • Give final touches to the vehicle

Three people were working in round-robin fashion. One person filled the tires, another did the balancing, the third handled final touches. Soon they changed their positions and the person had been doing the alignment was handling final touches. There was no confusion, all the workers knew what to do and when to chime in on each other’s tasks. Interestingly, all the tools were replaced in the right order, during tasks and at the end of each round. No instructions were given. Everyone knew what to do.

I wish that, as a Scrum Master, I could build such an ideal Scrum team!

This wish kept me up at night. The question that was bothering me was, what is the key factor in making such a great Scrum team?

What is stopping me from implementing an Agile framework (Scrum, XP, TDD, FDD, DSDM) with its values, principles, ceremonies, models, progressive elaboration, tacit knowledge, student syndrome, tools (TFS, Jira, etc.), techniques, incremental delivery, iterative methods, Planning Poker, and so on?

I realized that I am becoming dependent on “something” that will help me govern things. I remember that while preparing for certain exams, I referred to the materials from Mike Cohn’s preparation book and, in every chapter, there were “Ethics” and “Values” that were required. I always skipped those three pages, assuming that I knew the gist of those words.

However, if Agile is the philosophy, then we need to follow it as a philosophy. By appending the prefix “Agile” to “philosophy,” we don’t change that meaning.

What helped those three people in the above real-life example make a perfect team? Were they following SDLC or Agile or any other framework? No. And here we give the excuse to ourselves that we are “knowledge workers,” right?

I tried to understand all this more deeply and started looking at other examples in real life where people are working as perfect teams. What is making them work like that? I try to talk to those people, and take what I’ve noticed and compare it to the “professional jargon.” I’ve found that we have changed the meaning of what people initially thought; we have become slaves to what is more formally written in books.

It’s like this example: To make our lives easier we invented machines, and then more machines to get rid of diseases we got by becoming dependent on those machines.

Frameworks that were introduced (or will be introduced) are built on the assumption that the core values would be followed by every team. However, we tend to push aside those values and starting running with the framework, finding more and more ways to implement that framework.

Below are the five Scrum team core values:

  • Courage
  • Respect
  • Commitment
  • Focus
  • Openness

I believe that in order to achieve all of the core values, a team first should start from building mutual trust.

I suggest then imbibing the meaning of each and every core value, one by one. Inculcate those values in the team. Scrum is known for its simplicity, but probably people forget that there is a disclaimer: “The framework will work if core values are being followed in the team.


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