Executives Can’t Make Agile Work

In the olden days, executives in suits never heard of “agile” or “Scrum”. It was new back then. The “agile” and the “Scrum” were brought in by developers. In a very grassroots kind of way. Teams wanted to improve, so they tried it on for size. Agile. Scrum.

They were “in”, they were engaged, they were experimenting. These developers opted-in to try Scrum. They gave their consent to investigate it.

Teams gave their consent. And that’s a big part of why it actually worked…

Mandated Collaboration

In the present day, Agile is a mainstream idea. Now formally authorized leadership- management- is leading the charge. And here is where it gets interesting.

Interesting, because now Agile is being pushed on teams, without their consent. By authority. Professional “agile coaches” seal the fate of the teams, by acting as management’s proxy, force-feeding training and “inflicting help” on teams, teams that never, ever consented… because no one asked them in the 1st place.

This is a very serious problem.We seem to looking the other way in the Agile community, like this actually doesn’t matter.

It matters. A lot. You can have a transaction with your “agile enablement” vendor, but you cannot have a transformation in your organization if the people who do the work are not engaged. And engagement does not come from mandating or imposing Agile practices, from the top-down, on teams.

It comes from people choosing for themselves.

Engagement is the secret sauce.

Prescriptive mandates kill engagement.


What To Do?

The obvious thing to do is engage everyone- the executives AND the people who do the work- EVERYONE. Now, some Agile coaches will just tell you this is just not necessary. That all we need is the executives. That you can just push Agile on the teams, and everything will be OK. That everything will be fine. That “pushing” Agile on teams without their consent will work.

It won’t…and it doesn’t. Martin Fowler, an original signatory of the Agile Manifesto, said as much in 2006 in an essay entitled “The Agile Imposition“.

Here are some quotes from that essay:

“Imposing a process on a team is completely opposed to the principles of agile software, and has been since its inception.”

“Imposing an agile process from the outside strips the team of the self-determination which is at the heart of agile thinking.”

“Not just should a team choose their own process, the team should be control of how that process evolves.”

“…I’d rather have a team work in a non-agile manner they chose themselves than have my favorite agile practices imposed upon them.”

“So… I hope I’ve made clear that imposing agile methods is a very red flag.”

Not convinced yet? Gallup says disengagement is costing employers BILLIONS every year:

…about one in eight workers — roughly 180 million employees in the countries studied — are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations. (source link)

Employers can reclaim this lost productivity by engaging people. That ain’t gonna happen with a mandate or imposition of Agile practices.

Still not convinced?

There is a mound of data now coming out of MIT that now completely invalidates the idea that you can make a top-down “push” work. The MIT data proves you cannot get lasting organizational change without getting engagement from the people being affected. This data proves that pushing process change on teams that are not engaged simply does not work.

Open Agile Adoption is a method for engaging everyone. It expects something from everyone involved. It creates engagement, which is the very fuel of a rapid and lasting Agile adoption. It works.

You can learn more here:

Open Agile Adoption Explained

20 Minute Video of Daniel Mezick Explaining Open Agile Adoption on INFOQ

Open Agile Adoption Videos

Open Agile Adoption Articles

Open Agile Adoption Blog Posts