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