Isaac Asimov’s science fiction short story “The Bicentennial Man” tells the tale of a robot named Andrew. With the help of some human benefactors, over a long time, Andrew replaces his robotic systems with biological parts, piece by piece by piece. So the question becomes: When does Andrew stop being a robot and becomes a human (or something else)?
Does Andrew’s behavior remind you of your team? Or yourself perhaps? Maybe you are well on your agile journey. Maybe you are just starting to adopt agile. Even with the best intentions you may find yourself facing the same question as Andrew if you’re not careful.
What I have found in many teams and organizations is that there is almost an innate drive to change things as soon as they learn (but have not mastered) them – ‘Now that we’ve learned this agile stuff, let’s:
a) Not have the daily scrum every day
b) Not have the whole team participate in planning
c) Just have the “leads” do the estimation and tasking
d) Not work with the Product Owner regularly – just at the end of the iteration is fine
e) Ignore our velocity when planning the iteration – the Project Manager will tell us what to commit to
f) Some of the above
g) All of the above
h) More than all of the above.’
Now I’m not an agile purist. I believe in adopting agile pragmatically. Once you have mastered the basics and are successfully delivering value regularly and you want to adopt your approach to improve how it can work better in your organization, try it. It may work.
But don’t do this haphazardly. Make sure you understand why the various agile techniques are what they are and do what they do. Consider carefully why you want to change things – to make it “easier” or “save time” or to just be more personally comfortable? Make any justifiable changes like you deliver software – incrementally. Then inspect and adapt the change as appropriate. Just be patient. Get good at this stuff first. There is no rush.
If you keep changing things too quickly and prematurely you may find yourself in a dilemma similar to Andrew. But you won’t be asking “Am I still a robot?” You will find yourself asking “Am I still behaving agilely?
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