I ran into some former colleagues recently, from a company where I had worked to help transform the team to be more Agile. They’ve gone through some reorganization and management changes recently. One of the guys said that their team culture has helped them maintain quality in the face of those changes. This struck me as odd, since I had considered the work I had done there as somewhat of a disappointment. While I felt I had made a small dent, I didn’t feel like I’d made a true Agile transformation. Much of what I had taught didn’t seem to “stick”.
Later that night I thought about why my opinion of the team and his opinion were so different. There are a lot of reasons why an Agile “transformation” could fail. It could be due to lack of support from management. Or even worse, not getting the team members to buy into the ideas — usually due to fear of change. But while those had some effect in this case, they weren’t really the main issues. Now that I’ve had some time and some distance from that team, I’ve gained some clarity on what the real issues were.
I think the reason that I think this transformation was a failure was due to the continued pace of change that true Agile requires. Basically the team experienced “change fatigue”, where everything keeps changing and you feel like you can never catch your breath. But the more interesting thing is how our perceptions differed. He seemed to think that the transformation was a success — they’re doing things better than they used to. I view it as more of a failure, because they basically stopped improving — at least at the pace that I was hoping for.
I think this difference in mindset is pretty fundamental. My view of Agile involves continuous improvement — always inspecting and adapting our processes. I suppose that means that my preferred flavor of Agile is “Kaizen“. But other people don’t see improvement and change as a constant — they see each change as a means to an end. I’m starting to realize that neither viewpoint is objectively correct. Maybe they’re both fine viewpoints to have. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself and view that engagement as a failure, especially if my teammates view it as a success. Maybe perfection is the enemy of the good. And maybe I need to learn to be happy with “good enough”.