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SAM ON AGILE

By Sam Zawadi 12 Dec, 2016
This article is divided into two small parts, Part 1: a generic viewpoint and Part 2: The first rule of scaling.

Note, if this makes you think of kettles, go here .
By Sam Zawadi 29 Nov, 2016
Recently, I have noticed an increasing number of LinkedIn status updates, articles and comments towards other agile frameworks’ effectiveness, or questioning the need to do the thing the framework addresses, e.g. scaling.

Examples of some frameworks and methods I am talking about are, Scrum, Kanban and SAFe - which are currently the most popular, each arguably addressing a different problem.

I tend to see a lot of these kinds of social complaints and negativity towards other agile frameworks from people who are called ‘Agile Coaches’, but from reading their profiles and experience they are more specifically, ‘Scrum Coaches’.

If we analyse these social posts we can conclude that they are displaying their opinions on a subject matter they may know very little about. Despite this it is sometimes comically concluded that there isn't a need for the framework or thing they're commenting on (e.g. SAFe, Kanban, etc.), that it’s just a ‘sales or marketing machine’, or worse, that that it's unagile, doesn't work, or can be compared to waterfall ways of working.

There is a term that can be linked to this type of behaviour, it was coined in the 1970s and is now part of classic Change Management theory: unconscious incompetence .

Unconscious incompetence:

"The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn."

More positively, I have also seen such individuals go on a public journey of discovery; first of denying the usefulness of a particular framework, skill or related artefact, and then later on acknowledging that there could actually be a case for its usefulness, and that the framework they grew up with (e.g. Scrum), which may be the only thing they know and are experienced in, has its limits and its context, and that in fact there is deficit when applying it to other contexts. From this realisation, we can say that they achieve 'conscious incompetence'.

Conscious incompetence:

"Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage."

Unfortunately, so far as the said social posts on LinkedIn are concerned, I see very little beyond conscious incompetence being imparted. Far too often there is a certain dogma or agenda underlying thinking patterns behind these posts.

The following are some negative consequences caused by such social posting:

  • Not adding anything useful to the agile community, yet expending effort doing something. That’s called ‘waste’
  • Damaged credibility; people reading these social posts have already decided they probably wouldn’t ever hire the author, who will usually never realise it
  • People and organisations who are new to agile are turned off by cantankerous, pompous and condescending attitudes publically displayed by the author
  • Whatever framework or method being pushed by the author is taken less seriously and its adherents associated with immaturity
Moreover, these kinds of social media posts can be detrimental to somebody who is learning and who doesn’t yet have a strong enough foundation by which to judge the veracity of what’s being said. As a result of this, people come away with misconceptions that they also communicate to others who equally may not know any better.

Ultimately, this leads to dysfunction in teams and misunderstandings in organisations, because an unrealistic or incorrect set of beliefs about certain ways of working, necessity of roles, etc., may have already been set, leaving experienced coaches with more work to do, more antipatterns to deal with and more training and education to impart - which to summarise means a harder job making agile work especially in organisations where the perception of agile is already negative or lackluster.

Agile is one of those things that anybody can have an opinion on because it isn’t a science nor is there a mathematical formula you can use to verify agility. It’s more abstract than that, more ethereal, more a set of guiding principles and values than a set of rules that must be followed.

"Consider that ‘my agile ways of working are not the same as your agile ways of working’, and yet we both have agility."

My general advice would be that if you’re reading a LinkedIn status update, article or comment that seems to be hostile, mocking or generally negative towards another agile framework or method, look at the author’s LinkedIn profile experience. If it consists of a single framework all the way along, take what’s being said with a pinch of salt and seek advice and expertise elsewhere.

Let me know if any of this resonates with you.

For all four stages of competence and for the two related references above, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence
By Sam Zawadi 14 Nov, 2016
There's a long standing and ever ongoing discussion as to whether certifications are actually worth doing.

Example : if you have your Certified Scrum Master certificate, the CSM (or the equivalent, e.g. PSM or the new SSM) on your CV, then you get noticed by recruitment agents, and those little search algorithms pick you up and send your virtual profile on its way.

However, are certifications actually worth doing, and how do you maximise the value you get from doing them?

I think that depends on two things:

  1. Why you want the certification
  2. If you have any prior knowledge or experience in the thing you want to be certified in

I am not a believer in badge collecting because I don't see the value in it.

I have seen and worked with people with certifications that have little to no experience in the thing they're certified in. Though, they do come out of the course with some knowledge of the framework, process or theory, which may allow them to speak a common language within their organisation - but nothing they couldn't get from reading through online articles or in published books or YouTube videos.

In this case, I believe the only value certifications have is the recruitment agent 'tick box' on your CV or profile.

I once attended a popular 2-day training course where one delegate was new to Scrum and on his laptop for most of those two days - he probably still got his certification and probably emerged a fully qualified CSM. Will that person get value from his certification? A more concerning question is, will his organisation get value from him having done the CSM course?

In the ideal situation you'll get the most out of your training course if you are already a practitioner of that thing at some level in your organisation, having real world experience will always trump having certifications. However, having certifications can get you more of that sought after real world experience which, if you're a contractor, will make it easier to command a higher day rate as well.

It's not quite chicken and egg though, so here is a good formula for untying this knot and maximising the value out of doing your certification:

  1. You already have some relevant, real world experience
  2. You are well versed in the theory, this means you've read articles or books on the subject, been to meetups, watched YouTube videos etc.
  3. You then decide to get the formal certification because it's an opportunity to increase your knowledge of the subject matter, not to learn it from scratch
You emerge with the said certification and you have the real world experience to back it up - you continue to attain real world experience till you achieve your level of unconscious competence .

I think the above scenario illustrates a situation where you can maximise value from your certification, rather than engaging it with little or no prior experience or knowledge.

If you're interested in more advanced Agile training, or you want to build on your existing Lean Agile knowledge and expertise, check out the schedule of courses at www.agilica.com  - it's an agility training company working to bring higher quality agility training to the market. 
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