Going Agile Can Be Scary: Chapter One
I vividly remember the first time I was introduced to Agile. I was working for Intuit at the time, building a new piece of finance software. The project was on schedule, but only because we were all working 12 hour days, and working 7 days per week.
The people I worked with – all great people – and I rarely spoke about anything but our project. When we left the office, it was to go home, see our families for a bit, then sit back down at a computer and continue working.
In hindsight, I suppose it felt a bit like treading water with a weight strapped to one foot and the other foot tied to the people I was working with. (When you take an hour on Sunday afternoon to go to the park with your kids and you spend the whole time on the phone putting out fires – you begin to understand what I mean by this.)
One day, our Project Manager (PM) walked into the conference room and plunked down a book. “We are doing Scrum.”, he announced.
We looked up with bleary eyes, half-ignoring him, waiting to be excused so we could go back to our desks and continue our daily grind.
PM said, “I have one of these books for each of you. I’ve highlighted the chapters I want you to read – do it today, because we’re starting this tomorrow.”
Our responses varied from hostility to disinterest to what could best be described as numb capitulation. (Some of us had lost all of our fight by this time. Any hope for “greatness” had been worn down by investing countless hours just to squeak by as “okay”.)
I’ll go ahead and admit that I was one of the people who responded with hostility.
We were barely able to get by as it was, and now PM wanted us to read some book and learn new terminology for things that already had perfectly good names? (I didn’t understand at the time that test cases and user stories were actually different.)
The Agile Manifesto just about made my head explode. “Responding to change over following a plan? Now we’re going to build this massive product without a plan?!”
Honestly I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever been told to do.
We followed our PM into the Scrum process, slowly acclimating to the Agile principles and values.
I can’t really say this was something we embraced – it was more of a surrender at first. Capitulating to the fact that we weren’t in charge, and accepting that we’d probably fail because we stopped working hard and started marching to a whole new tune.
Honestly at times I felt like Fred Flintstone walking into The Royal Order of the Water Buffalo.
One day, maybe even just a few weeks into our Agile journey, I looked up and realized that we were on schedule. We were done at 4pm – ready to go home, and we were killing that extra hour by meeting for a beer or appetizers, talking, laughing, and bonding as a team.
These amazing, smart, funny people I worked with – they were my team now. My friends. We actually had time and bandwidth left over at the end of our work day to unwind and enjoy each other as individuals.
Our project drew attention from the Intuit offices in California as people saw our progress. They wanted to know what we had done to achieve greatness.
And Agile grew.
I will never again work on a development project without implementing some form of Agile development.
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