Agile Resistance

One of the things that’s most inspired me at IBM over the last couple of years has been a division wide initiative to adopt Agile development methodology among the teams. There remains a lot of resistance to such a change, but for those of us that really think this is a better way, it’s opened up a new freedom to demonstrate how much more effective we can be. We can actually point out that multitasking is bad, and completely wasteful, and not sound like lunatics any more, as it’s part of the standard training. We can plan with 1 to N priority lists, instead of time estimating tasks 18 months in advance, and have a leg to stand on. And for those of us that have really embraced Agile approaches, and surprised ourself on the effectiveness, it adds new focus and drive to the tasks at hand.

Yesterday, in a “scrum of scrums” (quotes because it’s really just a status meeting, as many of my peers aren’t really getting what Agile is) I shared with my peers some of the recent successes we had because we had stopped splitting up our 3 person team on various independent tasks, and instead got in the mindset that we, as a team, are tackling one thing at a time until it’s done. Every time we focus in this way, we get much more done. It does take vigilance to keep this focussed. Inevitably in the past we’ve backslid into slicing, and dicing, and multitasking our way into a spinning ball of busy that doesn’t seem to accomplish anything. I’m hoping this time the habit will finally stick.

I was just interested in sharing my experience at the end of our recent break through on a problem (which had happened only 10 minutes prior to the meeting). I got unsolicited comments from two of my peers effectively saying the old ways were just as good. It caused a good chuckle in a back channel.

Culture changes are hard, I know that. And with a ship as big as a division of IBM, turning it is something that’s going to take many years. But at least we’re starting.

(Disclaimer: my words are my own, represent my own perspective based on what I can see and who I interact with, and don’t represent the views of my employer.)

One thought on “Agile Resistance”

  1. I’ve long observed that innovative technologies seem to take a full decade from the time they are first solidly demonstrated until the time they enter the mainstream. Software examples from the mainframe era: Multiprogramming, virtual memory, relational databases. As a process technology, agile methodology was solidly demonstrated in the late ’90s. So I guess it’s right on schedule.


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