Agile Won’t Fix Your Organization

Last week I went on a teeny family vacation and ignored my email and phone for 2 days. I came home to this:



Accompanying that list were 3 voicemails. All of them about HOW F*CKING URGENT it is that this organization, on the Friday before holiday break, needed to find an Agile coach.

Since Friday I’ve had 2 more voicemails and 3 other email inquiries with eloquent messages such as:

“If interested then please send me your updated resume and indicate the competitive pay rate keeping in mind that you would not want to price yourself out of the competition.”

“As well, please fill the below qualification chart  in terms of your years of experience and send it back to me with your updated resume.”

“Requirements: Certified Scrum Coach (CSC), Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) and/or Project Management Institute-Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification”

“Please note that this is a bulk email sent to our internal database and I apologize if it does not apply to you. Additionally, if you are already a consultant with Nexus, please disregard this email and feel free to refer anyone in your network that might be interested.”

“The rate range for the position is up-to $95/hr. If interested then please confirm.”

Ok, I’ll stop there. My intent is not to embarrass the 8 recruiting firms who have clearly been put into a compromising position.

Nor is it to embarrass the poor HR person who is so far removed from the reality of the what the organization is asking for that they don’t even know what to communicate to the recruiters.

Nor is it to embarrass the ‘leader(s)’ who is asking for a spray-on-transformation coach.

Ok, maybe it is to embarrass the ‘leader(s)’ a little bit.

Oh, by the way, I’m a customer of this organization and they are the best “financial” organization I’ve ever used. If ‘Agile’ fucks this up, I will be extremely annoyed.

First the Snark

Recruiting is a big business, but the fact this organization has at least 8 recruiting firms working for them clearly shows they are completely clueless when it comes to what ‘Agile Transformation’ is supposed to be. I shouldn’t need to explain that further.

$95/hour? Wow! What a bargain! Any spray-on-transformation coaches interested? You’d be better off hiring a big-ass-consulting firm to plunk down their Agile Installation method for a few million bucks. Nothing will change, but at least you’ll feel good about it.

Certification Required? Yes, that’s the key. Only a certified person will have the skills necessary to navigate the mess of bureaucracy and poisonous culture that has been built up over the last few decades. Oh, and 6 months is plenty of time to right the ship.

What’ll Happen Next

For the rate being offered, this organization will end up either getting a desperate local Agile Coach (sorry!) or someone with some Scrum Master experience. This person will toil around in the status quo for 6 months, likely get extended and eventually give up and quit. Again, unless they need the income.

The good and responsible people in this organization will firmly attach themselves to this coach. They’ll learn awesome new ways of working, and then they’ll leave this crappy organization and find somewhere better to work.

Nothing will actually change in this organization, outside of some minor process improvements…which for a financial organization that reached $8-fucking-billion-dollars of revenue this year with an 11.6% increase since 2010, it doesn’t really matter anyway!

The leader(s) who want Agile to fix their crappy governance for how IT projects work will also get fed up and leave for another organization. Let’s face it, nothing customer facing will will be affected by this ‘transformation’. Agile is being brought in to fix teams and help them operate within a set of enormous, bureaucratic constraints for internal and support system development.

Finally, it’ll take this organization the greater part of next year to find somebody for this role and eventually they’ll give up and hire big-ass-consulting firm.

Some Free Advice

Yes this post officially takes me out of the running for this position (not like I replied anyway…), and it’ll probably piss a few people off, including recruiters and some local coaches (again…sorry!! you know this post to be true…)

To local coaches:

– don’t take this job. You know it’s a fix-our-teams gig despite your good intentions of bringing meaningful change.

To recruiters:

– I don’t really have any advice here…I feel bad for ragging on you because you’re just trying to make a buck in a horribly broken recruiting system.

– Actually, I do have some advice, don’t be a dick and lead with “this is an automated message.” type of stuff, it makes you look ridiculous.

To the leader(s) in this organization (if you’re listening)

– GET OFF YOUR ASS! Find people through XP Toronto, Toronto Agile Community, Toronto Agile Support Group, Agile Ontario meetups

– Offer to host an Agile meetup in your office, qualified coaches will jump on the opportunity to meet you in the hopes of getting your business. Even better, sponsor Spark Toronto to show that you’re serious about changing your organization! 🙂 (ok, that was a bit douchy on my part…)

– Don’t ask for ‘Transformation’ when you clearly are not ready for it. Stop reading Gartner and CIO magazines about how Agile has crossed the chasm, and start pouring through InfoQ articles containing stories from practitioners from all over the world so you can discover what it is you’re actually asking for.

– PROVE your organization wants to change by getting rid of that stock job posting and put some damn thought into it.

Finally, cancel this job posting and go read these books…NOW! (No, I’m not promoting my own book…while it would be a good read, that would be even more douchy than promoting the conference I’m helping organize. If you’re smart enough, you’ll find it.)

  1. Organizing for Complexity, Niels Pflaeging
  2. Reinventing Organizations, Fredric Leloux
  3. #Workout and Management 3.0, Jurgen Appelo
  4. The Art of Agile Development, James Shore
  5. Turn the Ship Around, David Marquet

After reading these books, re-think what it is you’re looking for. You’ll save yourself a great deal of time and aggravation.

To reiterate, my intent is not to embarrass anyone here. This post is intended to get people to start thinking about what changing their organization really means. If you want to rid yourself of the status quo, start with ridding yourself of using standardized practices and processes for bringing in change agents that can really kick your organization in the ass and make it a better, more enjoyable place to work.

That’ll engage your employees (provided you throw away your current engagement system…because it’s bullshit) and it’ll delight your customers (of course remembering that I am a customer of this organization and I’m delighted already!).

A Little More Snark

Above all else, have a wonderful holiday season and give your teams a break until the code freeze is lifted in mid-January. Then you can get back to shoving Agile on people, making them work 60 hours a week again and then having management send “we did it the Agile way!!!!” success messages after the project you executed took production offline, took twice as long to finish and cost 3 times as much.

Snarking portion completed!

Seriously though, have a fantastic holiday season and new year, there’s much more you can do as an organization to improve, hopefully this post has sparked some ideas.