Wednesday, July 5, 2017

On Thomas Paine and the Dunning Kruger Effect (Part II)

A new team without any experience finds the adoption of the Scrum Framework seductive.  They observe that others have achieved success with agile, and so, why not us?

Sounds good!

They pick up boilerplate like The Scrum Guide, introduce electronic card walls, and start speaking jargon like "story points," "backlog grooming," "prioritization," "sprints," and "velocity."

When they reveal this to leadership, there is enthusiasm and buy-in. They are heralded as an agile example for others to follow.

Upon closer scrutiny, there are 30 cards in the "doing" column, assigned to various combinations of 5 or 6 people. 

But two of those people are out at a customer site, and another is on vacation.

Some cards in "doing" have not been updated in months.

To complete any one card takes many-many weeks. Whenever the board is occasionally inspected, people are assigned, un-assigned and re-assigned without notice. Due dates are pushed further out into the future.  

There is no indication on the card for whom the work is done, or who has a stake in the outcome.

There is a marriage of those who created the card wall with the wall itself. For everyone else, there is a lack of understanding of the cards on the wall and their purpose.

When good-faith changes are suggested to promote clarity, controversy erupts and change is dismissed out-of-hand. 

"Why do we call it backlog when what we mean is committed?"

"Because everyone else calls it backlog."

"We cannot possibly be working on all the cards in the 'doing' column."

"Yes we are."

I conclude this parable with a question:  what do you think will be the reaction of leadership when they see this card wall at the next quarterly meeting, and it's impossible to see that any of the cards moved, or that any work got done at all?

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