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We Have Socks for Cold Feet

18 November 2013

Lizzy Morris

Many people are aware of the concept of cold feet, but it tends to come up in the context of getting married, which makes you think of a long-term commitment. Still, how many times have you gone into an organization that claimed they were ready to embrace Agile -- but when it came time for them to go for the gold, they got cold feet? Instead of the full Transformation Road Map being implemented as planned (the same one they had been excited about), they begin cancel meetings with you and avoid you in the hallways. If you manage to make eye contact, they will say they have been so busy and have been meaning to return your call.

As a consultant, you read between the lines and begin the hunt for your next gig, hoping you find it before the dread meeting. Which begins with, "I know we haven't been able to meet, but we are changing direction," or "Our budget has been reallocated to another area of the company." Ultimately this translates to "Get your Agile stuff out of here posthaste." As in a no-fault divorce, both partners agree to part ways as friends and talk through last invoice and expenses timelines.

Sometimes the parting of the ways is not as friendly, and bridges get burned on purpose because no one ever wants a way back.

What are they really saying

  1. We are not ready to make the tough decisions.
  2. Too much change has to happen at once and I can't get all the buy-in I need.
  3. The one key influencer didn't buy in to changing the model, based on negative experiences they had with "Agile" in the past.
  4. The teams are pushing back too hard; they fear they will miss their dates if they have to implement the Agile framework.
  5. We are not willing to make the investment in automation testing, our systems are too complex, all testing has to stay manual -- so maybe Agile is for other companies and not us.
These five points are just a very small subset of dozens of possible scenarios, all revolving around a simple fear: It is too much, too fast.

They need Agile sprinkles

There is no magic fairy dust that allows you to soar with Peter Pan, but there are techniques to bridge the gap.

  1. A change of minds must begin if you are ever going to change their hearts.
  2. Agile cannot be a foreign dialect; everyone needs to speak it and, at the very least, comprehend its message.
  3. Operation Agile Sprinkles should begin the minute you walk in the door.
  4. You should embrace a mind-set of activating and seeding as much Agile DNA as possible throughout the organization.
Agile Sprinkles are like the magic beans that you plant to grow your client's Agile tree.

Things to do

  1. Give a free management overview of Agile.
  2. "Dumb down" the Agile framework at first and use everyday, applicable terms to explain the framework: "requirements" instead of "user stories," "meetings" instead of "ceremonies."
  3. Spend time with teams and give them hints and tips that can improve the way they do things currently.
  4. Perform personality assessments (suggest Myers-Briggs), and add value to each individual by introducing them to begin the empirical process within themselves.
  5. Perform an informal culture assessment.
  6. Have value-discovery conversations with leaders in the organization.
  7. Find the company's Agile DNA (if it exists).
  8. Start up an Agile meet-and-greet and introduce a fun simulation that demonstrates an Agile principle or two.
These eight actions are funnels through which you can push Agile sprinkles.

Call out the elephant in the room

Let your clients know:
  • You are going to have fears.
  • You are going to have conflicts.
  • You are going to have lots of exposure.
  • You are going to have finger-pointing.
  • You are going to have people leave.
  • This is part of the Agile journey.
Bring your clients a pair of thick socks woven from the fabric of Agile Sprinkles and warm their feet to change today.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4 (4 ratings)


Lizzy, I have read your articles, simple and powerful. Nice work.
Ganesh Subramanian, CSM, 11/21/2013 5:02:20 AM
Thanks for sharing, Lizzy!. Regards, Ganesh.
David Lowe, CSP,CSM, 11/23/2013 4:37:09 PM
I like the idea of "Operation Agile Sprinkles", Lizzie :)

Using everyday words instead of agile jargon is certainly a wise idea, as is spending time with both teams and management.
Janaris Lambright-Trefny, CSM,CSPO, 11/25/2013 4:01:22 PM
Good Information

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