May 24, 2013

The Dark Champions of Agile: Know thy Enemy…

As agile coaches, resistance to change is part of the job. How can we overcome the “Dark Champions”, who fight for status quo? Join me to find out ...

The role of agile coach encompasses the responsibilities of Change, replacing the old inefficient ways with value adding tasks, in process, bureaucracy or otherwise.  Here lies the danger and inherent resistance from the implicit company culture to agile and its transparent ways.  In the dark corners of bureaucracy and inert processes, will you find a Dark Champion, someone for whom the status quo is king and will fight, indirectly and in the shadows, to keep things the way they are… As an Agile Champion, you bring Courage and Knowledge to the arena…

Resistant to change

The Dark Champion, the Dark for short, will find a wedge to come between those whom seek change and those whom wish to change but lack the motivation to rise up.  The Dark uses fear of change to highlight the loss of power to some and prestige to others.  The comfort of the old way will be the wedge for the rest. All fear, regardless of source, must be brought out in the open, only then can empathy and knowledge be applied through acceptance and closure. Unlike agile, which espouses self-empowered teams to manage change,  there is no comfort in change you cannot control.   I remind teams of an old business axiom “Change or Die”, a saying from well before my time, proven effective by nature through evolution.  Instill Courage in teams to shape their change, so prestige is gained by through predictability, power is gained through reliability by delivering on your sprint commits.  Some feel change will remove them from being the ‘go to guy’, a legitimate fear for people whom have become accustom to being the center of attention.  This can be overcome by helping people evolve into the ‘go to team’.

Hides in plain sight, Politics as a cloak of invisibility

The Dark uses politics to hide in plain sight…the Cloak of Invisibility is used to hide mediocrity, redundancy and increased opacity, the opposite of Transparency, one of the five Scrum values. Political tactics are beyond the scope of this blog post, but knowing who your enemy is, helps out.  This Dark Champion, The Baron, reports to the boss, has the power of process, HR or otherwise, and uses the power of redundancy to slow down your agile initiatives.  When and how change is implemented, the Baron will proclaim “we must adhere to regulations”. Mercy for you if the Baron is supported by legal regulations such as HIPPA or Sar-Ox!

Elseworlds: Armor of The Dark KnightThe Baron is brought into the open with a reassignment of power. Although the SM is usually in charge of scheduling the scrum rituals, the Baron is minimized by delegating these duties to him.  The perspective here is for the rituals of Scrum not to interfere, but enhance process improvement.  Inclusion, empowerment and participation are tools the agile coach or ScrumMaster (SM) can use against the Baron, perhaps by going so far as to let the Baron facilitate the rituals as well?

The Dark Champion of Mediocrity takes the forms of the middle manager.  The Dark is responsible for inefficient forms and procedures and resists agile and the call for improvement; a prime example is the TPS report (see the movie, Office Space!)  is threatened by agile’s focus on performance and teamwork.  The Dark will use fear of change especially towards those whom are used to less than stellar work efforts.  Fear is presented as resistance and takes root as apathy.  Once apathy has taken hold then, the Dark will team with the Baron to stymie and outlast you with inertia!

The Agile Champion could propose a strategy to improve team performance, with a modification to HR processes which focus on promotion and bonuses.  Insert a ‘team score’ along with individual performance, so that team wins and losses have an effect on each team member’s overall performance metrics.  This defeats mediocrity and compels those who work less, to work harder, now that everyone’s bonus is dependent on their efforts as well.  For example, use two scores for performance, an individual scale from 1 – 10 and a team score which uses the same scale.  These two numbers are multiplied together (individual score is 8 – great programmer, team score is 5 – needs to pitch in more:  8 x 5 = 40 overall score).  The implicit peer pressure to perform removes part of the motivational burden from the coach and correctly focuses it on the team members to motivate one another.

Part two of this blog, ‘Gathering Allies for Change’ will discuss who can help you in the struggle for Scrum and how they can are empowered to overcome the resistance to Change.

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Manny Segarra

I am a helpful teacher with a warrior spirit...I am devoted to the Scrum Values and coach teams to ground their thinking and practices in these values... Forever learning and passionate about the people which trust me to guide them in the direction of kaizen and being better teammates...
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Image of mannysegarra

Manny Segarra

I am a helpful teacher with a warrior spirit...I am devoted to the Scrum Values and coach teams to ground their thinking and practices in these values... Forever learning and passionate about the people which trust me to guide them in the direction of kaizen and being better teammates...

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