Confession of my agile sins

I’ve done a podcast with The Agile Confessional where I confessed my agile sins: managing a team in a command and control way and forgetting to let the world know how the team became truly agile before agile was invented.

After talking about my agile sins, I’ll have to do penance to get absolved.

Update: For doing penance, I’ve shared how I trust by default.

Agile Confessional Podcast

The Agile Confessional is a podcast that shares fun confessions from people who’ve spent a large part of their career working in the agile world. In this podcast, I spoke to Giles Lindsay about some of the “agile sins” that I’ve done in my career.

Thank you Giles for doing this podcast with me. It was fun talking about mistakes that I’ve made, it feels good to see what I’ve learned. And it probably going to make me even feel better after I’ve done my penance.

My “Agile Sins”

In my confession I talked about my first sin, which was managing my project in a “command and control” way, telling people what to do and how to do their work knowing, knowing that there are better ways to do this. I made a plan (all projects need to have a plan, right?) that described the activities and assigned them to people in my team. On the second day, two of my team members came to me and told me that this wasn’t really working for them, and for the project. Luckily, I listened to them and gave them space and trust to do their work as they saw fit. Instead of micromanaging my team, I started focusing on the real needs of the customer. Together with the team we started delivering the software in increments to get something into the hands of our customers to regain trust and get their feedback. The rest, as they say, is history.

The second sin that I confessed is that I never shared my story about how we turned the project around. Looking back, we were doing stuff in the past century that decades later became know as agile. It feels like an “agile sin” that I never shared how we worked together and how we manage to deliver stuff frequently, get feedback, and learn and adapt our way of working. To the team and me, this felt like a normal way of working, something that every project should do. We assumed that they did, finding out years later that many projects and teams were struggling. We had solutions that worked but kept them to ourselves.

I don’t want to spoil the podcast, so I’m not telling you what happened and what I learned here. But if you want to have some insight into how I managed my first project in the 1980s, read How I Started with Agile.

Doing penance

Giles Lindsay listened to my “agile sins” and luckily for me, he decided to give me absolution provided that I will do penance:

Ben, your penance will be to share something that is currently working out for you today in a blog post that may not necessarily be that special for you but may be a great piece of thought leadership for the readers 🙂

So, that’s my homework, I need to write down and share something that I do that feels like a common sense thing to do, but apparently isn’t. I’ve been giving this thought ever since I confessed, and on November 25 I published the article Trust by Default.

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