Is Agile just another fad that will go the way of quality circles and managing for results? Business / The Guardian Podcast / Uncategorized

Is this just another fad?

Ryn Melberg Gives Guidance On How To Overcome Objections To Agile

On her weekly podcast, Ryn Melberg cites several objections to Agile practices, what the causes of those complaints can be and how to best handle them. The Guardian Podcast with Ryn Melberg can be heard on Soundcloud ( iTunes ( or on her web site at

Is Agile just a fad?

Is Agile just another fad that will go the way of quality circles and managing for results?

Is Agile Just Another Fad?

It is easy and understandable when people are skeptical or even cynical about new ways of working because a knowledge worker of any age has been indoctrinated to the ‘quality’ movement, six sigma, and performance management. While each has its advantages, the enthusiasm for them wanes after a time as real world experience catches up with enthusiastic marketing. “Agile only has two groups (Lean and the Scaled Agile Framework) with any investment in the social science behind what works and why,” Melberg said. “Further, there is no single governing authority and no consistency on professional practices or governance. With a lack of organizational rigor like this, it is understandable people would view Agile as a fad because it looks like one.” To mitigate this view, Ryn advises her clients to the areas of practice that have a good scientific basis for the claims they make. “I consider myself to be a business scientist, I do not pay attention to fads. What I do pay attention to and study at length are the things that are proven to work. I do this kind of homework so no one else has to.”

Top Performers Would Be The Same Regardless

Another popular objection to Agile is with respect to performance in the workplace. Critics contend that the top performers in any organization would be top performers regardless of where they were working. The same is said of below average employees. “There is nowhere to hide in Agile,” Ryn tells her listeners. “While some of the top performers will remain at the top, others will be revealed as ‘office arsonists’ who create trouble and later provide heroic solutions to the problems they created. They start trouble, but miraculously find a solution that gets rewarded for saving the day. Agile will uncover this kind of dysfunctional behavior.”

Wishful Thinking

Ryn described organizations where there was a disconnect between reality and plans for a much better reality. “There are groups and leaders who will declare that this month we are going to do 20 things, but only accomplish 5. This pattern has repeated itself for some time and when confronted is always met with ‘but this time will be different’ without making any other changes to facilitate different outcomes,” she said. “Agile will reveal unrealistic thinking like this and make the work environment better by managing work in well planned sprints.”

A Dearth Of Trained Agile Leaders

Ryn traces a lot of troubles in the workplace for managing objections to Agile implementation to the lack of trained leaders. “We do not do enough teaching of how to make Agile leaders who actually lead,” Ryn said. “SAFE is the only one that has a 2 day course where leadership is ever mentioned, and even that is only for an hour, so let that sink in as you consider the ways Agile is not implemented correctly.”

"Fad or not, it's here to stay," is a great line from The Simpsons and Krusty the Klown. He may or may not have been describing Agile.

“Fad or not, it’s here to stay,” is a great line from The Simpsons and Krusty the Klown. He may or may not have been describing Agile.

Undermining The Team

Whether intentionally or not, leaders in organizations will often undermine the Agile team. If Agile teams are self directed, someone from outside can undo all the good because they do not understand the Agile process. Ryn listed several during her podcast. “Asking for status reports will undermine the team,” Ryn said. Or if you are looking at the kanban board and asking why someone of your direct reports is doing something not typically their responsibility, that will also undermine the team. Remember that Agile teams are self-directed and self-regulated. If an outside manager is trying to micro-manage what his or her subordinates are doing then the autonomy is lost.”

Agile Therapy

These observations alone make it imperative that the people leaders in an organization be not just familiar with Agile practice, but that they fully understand the upside of the independent team approach to Agile and what will be lost if the team has to deal with objections to what and how they are working. This is where Ryn will implement what she calls “Agile therapy” for the team and their leaders. “It’s often just a matter of sitting together and re-aligning the team members and their leaders on what the original goals were and how to get back on the right track,” Ryn advised. “There are not a lot of people in the workplace who scheme to behave badly. They are simply out of alignment. By taking the personalities out of this or any situation and focusing on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the group, we can get back on track.”


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