Thursday, July 17, 2008

Can Agile Keep You From Being Successful?

It certainly depends on what kind of career you are looking for. But sometimes if you want to become a leader you may find that being an expert on a non-leadership subject can actually keep you from being successful.

Some authors - I don't want to give reference here since I was looking at German authors - use a model that takes different thinking styles as a starting point. The knowledge focused thinker tries to become and stay an expert on a particular subject. And a person that is an expert may even have the fear that someone comes along who is an even better expert. So they frantically work on become and staying the "best". They may start to defend their beliefs and knowledge, ultimately coming across as defensive, academic, or even arrogant. Non of these perception will help if you want to become an agile leader.

As a leader you are still a subject matter expert. However, instead of being an expert on Crystal, Scrum, XP, or the like, you become an expert on agile leadership. You can delegate the agile practices to people in your team. After all: If you have coached your team over an extended period of time there should be more than enough methodology champions in your team anyways.

So you can let go without losing influence. You are no more under the pressure to create the perfect implementation of Scrum or XP regardless of what "perfect implementation" means. If XP or Scrum doesn't work perfectly it is not you who has failed. The team as such has not yet managed to adopt and adapt it sufficiently. Depersonalize the particular area from yourself.

A question that might help you to make this change towards re-inventing yourself could be: How do you define success? Is it to get pair programming rolled out through-out the organization? Or is it something different? Maybe you want to provide the best possible service to you customers. Maybe you no longer think in terms of black and white, right or wrong, works or doesn't work. Maybe you want to introduce a third category saying: it helps.

Bottom line: To make the shift towards an agile leader you might actually have to let go of trying to be an expert on an agile methodology to be successful!

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