Practice “X” doesn’t work for us so let’s throw it out.

A few months ago I had an opportunity to informally assess a team that had been doing agile (using the term very loosely here) for 4 months. During my 1-on-1 conversations with the team members, I kept hearing the same refrains along the lines of, “The <choose an agile practice or ceremony> doesn’t work for us so let’s stop doing it.”

If a practice isn’t working for a team and they want to change the practice that’s fine as long as they recognize why it isn’t working. But this group had a knee jerk reaction to throw practices out instead of inspecting, reflecting, and adapting. The questions that they should have asked themselves before reaching a decision:

  • Other teams sitting nearby seem to find this practice very valuable. What are we doing differently?
  • Are we doing this the right way?
  • Did we inadvertently modify the practice to fit our context without realizing the benefits we would lose?
  • Did we try and learn from the instances where the practices didn’t seem to bear fruit? And did we then change the way we worked?
  • Were we disciplined in following the practice or using the technique? Or did we cut corners or drop-off bits because it seemed too hard?
  • Do we have a tendency to blame the technique/practice/method first and not even think about how we are contributing to the problem? Do we see failures as problems with the practice instead of looking at failures as feedback mechanisms on our approach?
  • Is the practice not working because we have serious organizational dysfunctions that are getting in the way?

Have you encountered similar behavior before? How did you handle such situations?

One comment

  1. Whenever someone claims that a problem is caused by X, ask, “What alternative causes have you considered, and what data did you gather to rule them out?”

    Whenever someone says, “I’m going to do A,” ask, “What alternative courses of action did you consider, and what data did you gather to rule them out?”

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