Being agile, or at least, completely plucky

Well, I was nosing around the blogs of my old team for auld lang syne's sake and ended up reading Doug Seven, the dev lead who frankly should have a role next to Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. I can totally see it, and he wants to hit me with a parrot every time I say that, so good thing I am in a building across campus from him.

So Doug is talking about scrumming and sprinting and all that stuff that goes with learning Agile. Now, I am not an expert on Agile, I have just had hallway conversations about it with Jim Newkirk, read the Agile book with scrum, and got food poisoning the day of the "Scrum simulation."  I am not a scrum master. I am not certified, though some might say I am quite a bit ..touched.

 I am also not on a scrumming team now, although frankly I think Nils is approaching it stealthily - there are a lot of behaviors going on that look like Agile but are just not called that. I don't want to mention that too much - spook the devs and scare the testers, kind of thing.

But, I am ever willing to stick my nose into a philosophy of good teams debate, so I did. The details of whatever Doug is talking about sound long and involved and the main things I got out of it was: he probably should have swung his cutlass at the landlubbers and forced them to walk the plank. Er, I mean, he sounds like his team or at least the team he was observing in whatever role he was in, disappointed him, and he's cranky that Agile doesn't seem to make the team accountable.

This brings me on to the topic I touched on previously, the passion people.  In the Rory/Dare/Eric discussion, the team's failure would have been a result of overwhelming positivity and agression, with no one daring to tell the emperor (team) they have no clothes. I haven't seen positivity addressed in the Scrum books but, perhaps it was fatal here. It might be too that something else was in the mix, something I worry about more: the passionless people.

We've all had days like that...out of bed on the wrong side, bad news continously, Mercury retrograde and communication sucks...where the passion just goes out of the thing we love doing. Even Mozart had his days of hating music composition I am sure.

The danger comes when learned helplessness sets in; you think you won't ever care again so you don't. This is like the goal of teaching someone who fell off the bike to get back on it, after 5 years of them not biking. Insidious helplessness is a tougher trick for managers to work with their reports on, and something that will weaken the team no matter what method you are using. I still believe scrum and Agile are great tools for exposing what's actually happening, and by forcing folks to talk about getting unblocked, moves energy in the right direction. But also, if "the same old mistakes" are being made, Agile's insistence on transparency outs them even quicker and perhaps disheartens that much faster. .

I think Doug and his team will figure it out. But while the Agile buzzwords fly, it might be good to talk to the team (maybe individually) about their passion for the project and maybe the passionless parts of the project. Passion is no substitute for process but it will invigorate something like Agile. A team that is both nimble and passionate is, well, Plucky(tm).

 If I ever get enough time, I will start a new project management method all my own. You heard it first here people: Get Agile, or Get Plucky!

Cheers! And live it vivid!