David Joyce shared a short story on Twitter how a team was told by a coach to switch from Kanban to Scrum and they eventually got back to what they’d had initially. It seemed to that the team had been operating pretty well in the first place so I was curious why they were told to change.
It seems that coach’s argument was that they weren’t agile.
I think I should start with a few disclaimers. Yes, you can officially consider me a Kanban proponent. No, I don’t think that Kanban, in general, is superior to Scrum (or any other specific approach). Yes, I like Scrum and witnessed it working very well for some teams. No, I don’t think that Scrum, in general, is superior to Kanban (or any other specific approach).
I do however have problem with people selling agile, or any other approach, as it was the one and the only revealed truth. I do have problem with people selling agile as the way of life. I do have a general problem with any orthodox folks out there selling their snake oil.
The problem is there are more and more such people. Agile is already a business. Scrum is a business as well. Soon Kanban will be business too. This means there is plenty of people who are selling ready-to-apply solutions without even thinking how they might be used in a given environment. Or whether they are applicable at all.
You should avoid these people. The problem isn’t that they aren’t helping. It’s even worse. They are actively harming your team.
One theme which often comes to me whenever I’m working with different teams or preaching agile or lean is that not only should you learn the method of your choice, but also understand why it works. “Whys” are crucial here.
If you understand why a specific practice or rule is there you can fine-tune it in a way that doesn’t harm the team, or substitute it with other technique which covers with the same gap. Otherwise it’s just following the book.
Now, it’s perfectly fair to follow the book if you and your team aren’t experienced with different methods and don’t have answers for all the whys at hand. However, if we take coaches, people who earn money teaching us, it is their freaking duty to understand how, why and where tools they sell happen to work.
Otherwise they are like the coach from David’s story. Selling his snake oil with bullshit arguments like “it isn’t agile.” Well, I’m not agile, so what? Would my customers pay me even a buck for being so? I thought they were paying me for software I build and using this or that method is reasonable if and only if it can help me to be more effective.
When I see snake oil salesmen I’m sad. I’m even sadder when I see people buying their snake oil. If we can do anything about this, we can try to reach as wide audience as possible with our message. Avoid orthodoxy. Avoid people who have the same answer for every problem. Avoid those who can’t answer your whys. And don’t be afraid to call bullshit.