Saturday, November 21, 2009

Squirrel Agile

A client shared this term a few weeks ago that I really liked: Squirrel Agile. Thanks Steve.

I'm sure you've seen a squirrel trying to cross a street. The squirrel starts off on one side of the street, looks, darts out, then sees something scary and retreats. Sometimes he retreats all the way... sometimes he just stops in his tracks. When he starts again, he may continue trying to cross, or may high-tail it back to the original side of the street.

In agile adoption, we sometimes see fits and starts... and retreats - just like the squirrel.

One aspect of agile adoption - self directed teams - seem to me to suffer a great deal from this behavior. Management agrees to self-directed teams in principle, but as soon as the manager fears loss of control, or loses confidence in the team's ability to deliver, the agile squirrel darts back towards the original side of the street. The command-and-control tendencies return.

Other fits and starts occur when you start taking shortcuts in your approach. "We don't need to do a showcase this iteration; we don't have much to show". Or "We're 98% complete with this story - let's take credit for the story in our burn-up, since we'll finish it quickly at the beginning of the next sprint." I'm sure you can come up with other examples.

These behaviors mirror the squirrel's fear. These short-cuts and adaptations are typically not to improve effectiveness or efficiency, but reactions to fear of judgment. My suggestion: rather than darting back and forth as you cross the road, take a deliberate approach with courage.

1 comment:

Rajeev Singh said...

What'd be a good example of a technical practice high-tailing?