Saying One Thing, Doing Another

Agile leaders routinely extol the virtue and value of “self organizing teams” and “motivated individuals.” As well they should, since these exact phrases appear in The Agile Manifesto.

The primary impediment to both of these wonderful ideas is the imposition of Agile practices on teams without their consent.

Without their voluntary engagement.

Without actually manifesting “respect for people,” you know, that “very small aspect” of Lean.


Let’s unpack this.



“Self Organizing Teams”

Self-organizing teams are self-managing teams. Specifically, these teams manage decision-making, at the team level, on their own. Self-organizing teams know how they make decisions. The process of deciding is usually all very explicit and well understood by all team members. Teams at this maturity level often have explicit rules they use when making a decision that affect the whole team.

It’s very easy to see how the imposition or “push” of Agile practices on teams without their consent can make the “self-organizing teams” ideal just about impossible to achieve. It’s self-evident: external authority is calling all the shots with the “do these Agile practices until further notice” decision. There are no decisions for the team to “self manage,” let alone “self organize.”

“Motivated Individuals”

Pushing a solution (“do these Agile practices until further notice”) on a solution provider is a fundamentally dumb idea. Developers tend to be intelligent, creative, independent-minded, and introverted. Developers identify as “solution builders” and “solution providers.” With the imposition of Agile practices on teams we can expect some real disengagement and resentment from the most independent-minded developers.

We could threaten the developer’s job in response. Question: is that “motivating?” Are people who are afraid of losing their jobs the “motivated individuals” the Manifesto is referring to? Very doubtful indeed!

Agile leaders

Agile leaders routinely say all the right things about motivated individuals and self-organizing teams. Then they say and do absolutely nothing in protest of the Agile-industry’s standard of pushing Agile practices on teams. This is all very misleading!

Agile leaders cannot have it both ways. They cannot claim solidarity with Agile principles and also say absolutely nothing in protest about the deplorable pandemic of “imposed Agility.”

To remain credible, these Agile leaders need to be sounding the alarm about the harmful push of practices on teams. These leaders need to be issuing protective warning and protests about imposing practices on teams. It’s harmful, it makes “self organizing teams” next-to-impossible to achieve, and it makes “motivated individuals” much less plentiful, or even nonexistent.

Moral of story: Agile leaders who sing the praises and extol the virtue of  “self organizing teams” and “motivated individuals” while remaining silent on the #1 impediment to manifesting both is a kind of deception.

If you are an Agile leader, and you engage in this pattern of rhetoric, it strongly implies you are for something that you are really not.

If Agile leaders actually want “self organizing teams” and  “motivated individuals” to manifest worldwide, we will hear them loudly sounding the alarm about the deplorable status-quo of forcing Agile practices on teams without their consent.

As of today, protective warnings and protests on this topic from Agile leaders are very hard to locate. Hard to come by. Nearly nonexistent.

To learn more about the worldwide scope of this insidious problem, please examine the essay “THE AGILE INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.”


The Agile Imposition (link)

The Agile Manifesto (link)