The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Killing Agile (12/?)

Sadly, […] a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred. […] it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences. 

It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Killing Agile, not an Agile book, never published on Agile website, and until the terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or heard of by any Agile team members.

Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book. […]

It begins with a template

I acknowledge that talking about something which doesn’t directly relate to Agile is probably not the best way to resume our journey to try to survive The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Killing Agile. Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll try to save face by mentioning an agile template by the end of this article.

It is often said that what a customer asks for may not match what the customer really needs.

By the same token, I believe that sometimes what an employee asks for may not match what the employee really needs.

For example, when an employee asks for a template, it may be something else what they really need. And I would say that most of the time it may be training. I’ll explain why.

I recall a situation some years ago where a colleague was recurrently asking the team lead for a template: she said she needed it to perform better her job. After a while, probably feeling cornered, the team lead asked the other team members if they also needed a template. Since everybody else said they didn’t need any templates to do their job, the request was dismissed, which also means that the job performed by the person who was asking for a template was still far from optimal.

Anyway, I don’t think it was because a template was missing: in my opinion, what that colleague needed was not a template but training. Hence, I would say that, by thoughtlessly dismissing the request without identifying a need for training, the team lead probably did a pretty poor job. 

I’ve come to this conclusion after recently experiencing a similar situation with another colleague. Prompted to write down a schema or a short explanation about how he intended to approach a particular task, he started asking for a template to do that. Despite the fact he was answered that he was free to use whatever format he was keen on, he insisted on asking for a template, to such an extent that in the end he started using a template he was not comfortable with and which had nothing to do with the task in question.

Again, now I believe that what he was unconsciously asking for was some training about how to perform that task. 

After all, a template is like bicycle training wheels. It’s fine to ask for and use them at the beginning, but it would be quite weird if an adult/experienced cyclist were asking for them. So, if this happens, I recommend trying to understand what it is the real concern of the cyclist/employee involved. 

Similarly, if you see someone misusing a template, you may consider offering them some training/help/clarification.

Please, don’t allow a Product Owner to write user stories like this:

“As a Product Owner, I want the Development Team to perform <task>.”

To me, it’s not a matter of getting rid of the Product Owner or the user story format: it’s rather a matter of making sure people understand what they are expected to do.

List of references

(Sadly) real working life.

Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  London: Del Rey Books,1995 (first published 1979).

Fake review from The Fake Boston Globe

Seconds before the lab is demolished to make way for a new galactic device…

… a SW tester begins a journey through Scrum framework aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Killing Agile (“A speck is about the most massively useful thing a software hitchhiker can have”) and a lab full of fellow team members…

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