Letter of intent

Acme Inc.
Av. Frederick W. Taylor 42
Gantt Building
1000 Gotham City
NeverlandDear IT Manager,before you hire your next Agile coach to either kickstart or breathe some life into your Agile change initiative, take a step back and think about it. You might be surprised to hear this from me, but maybe that budget could be better spent elsewhere.

I’m not saying this out of some suicidal desire to kill the very market where I earn my living. Quite the opposite. I say this because I desperately want to improve it, and make sure it’s both a market that motivates and challenges me, as well as one whose existence is based on actually improving organizations.

So before you hire your (next) Agile coach, think about the journey you are embarking on. Agile is not a quick fix for your delivery problems. These problems are a symptom of a much larger dysfunctionality in your organization. Any (real) Agile coach you hire will only be as effective as the breadth of the change initiative. If this initiative is coming solely from the IT department, and it has no support from your other delivery partners such as product management, sales, customer service, operations, or the project management office, then chances are the initiative will yield poor or limited results (when compared to its real potential).

So if you are going to hire an Agile coach, you should be ready to support them when they inevitably start to reach out to these other departments. This support should be strong yet honest since there will likely be some resistance to the change, especially on the political side of things. Cross-departmental collaboration means ignoring the silo’d hierarchy that got so many people their fancy job titles in the first place.

Also, the very fact that you are considering introducing Agile in your organization is most likely because you have experienced the pains caused by an organization driven by predictive planning approaches. Embarking on an Agile change initiative means going in the opposite direction of predictive planning in almost every sense. Here is where the resistance from the organization will really show its teeth, especially when Agile starts shining a bright light on all the waste clogging the delivery process.

Any Agile change initiative will eventually try to change the culture of the organization. It must. Unless it succeeds in doing this, it will ultimately fail. And changing organizational culture is by far the toughest thing to do in the business world. So if you want to hire an Agile coach, you must be open for change and eager to drive it internally. You also should be ready for some tough discussions.

You’ll have to embrace failure (as long as it happens quickly) since it’s the best opportunity to learn and a necessary by-product of exploration. Because ultimately, it is about delivering value by allowing your knowledge workers the freedom to focus on collaboratively identifying, prioritizing and solving your organization’s toughest challenges.

Now, if what I described above sounds too ambitious, too frightening or just plain too difficult, then I think you should re-consider your Agile plans. You’re not going to find the quick fixes you’re looking for. Quick fixes are a specialty of the predictive planning guys, so you’re better off spending your money on them.

Why am I telling you this?

Because if we’re honest from the start about what an Agile change initiative entails, then I won’t need to hear about yet another Agile coach stuck trying to help a company that desperately wants to put an Agile face on its waterfall heart. Trying to jam the square peg in the round hole. These cases are later re-counted as “Agile failures”, which is a disservice to the coaching market and an insult to the word “failure”. Failure would be a valuable learning opportunity. But in order to fail, you first need to actually try to achieve something.

If, on the other hand, you think all this sounds like a liberating experience of discovery and challenging work, if you can see the real and wonderful benefits that result from it, then you’re ready to drive this important change ahead. And in this case, indeed yes, please find yourself an experienced Agile coach to support you in… actually, forget about that. Just contact me directly instead. You sound exactly like the kind of person I would love to work with.

Let’s get to work?

Letter of intent

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