Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lean/Agile: Why you don't need it!

So you've been hearing a lot of hype about this lean/agile stuff. Of course let's be honest…by "a lot" we really mean an article in a trade magazine don't we? In fact, we were on the pot during that particular read and there were two other, more interesting articles on cost-accounting and tools to manage resource processes; so we really only read the title of that agile article…didn't we? And what's wrong with that? I mean with a title like "Agile: All the Unicorn Giggles without all the Unicorns" what could possibly go wrong…right?

I mean what would really need to change anyway? Your painful annual budgeting process and five-year project plan has worked well forever! Your hiring and training processes have certainly maintained the skill level and interest of your cost-center-style IT department. Besides, you just sent your VP of HR all the acronyms and version numbers of all the tools and technologies listed in the past 6 monthly trade magazines…man... you're on top of it!

Either way, I'm sure your company is in a stable, non-commoditizable market space. I mean yeah, you mostly deal in information now that it's 2011, and your major competitors have likely eeked the last few iotas out of their measurable primary operations over the past few decades just like you…but they just don't get it like you do! And anyhow, your shareholders were amazed with last quarter's dividends…when have they ever been wrong? Heck! They are even considering an IPO! All signs point to yes! …jeez wont you be rich once they decide to go public?…probably shouldn't rock the boat now!

As for employee engagement and more rewarding work and lifestyles…what a bunch of hooey! Those people should just be glad to have jobs right? The ones that made it past the last round of layoffs that is. I mean, have they seen the economy? Anyhow, your company is the best in town right? After all, you work there and you're no loser! They should feel proud to be part of the same thing you are…that same vision of …well…we don't really remember the vision…I mean, we printed it out a few months ago on those plotters we got…for, you know…printing out the vision statement. Damn that was an expensive year…almost didn't make EBITDA that year…good thing we cut the training and conference budget so we could get the plotters! …but yeah…we printed that vision out…mostly because it was too long to remember. Something about increasing something and something else about shareholder value. I think they mentioned something about customers, or maybe employees…oh wait…both were there, but "employees" were termed "service personal"…that's right…yeah…so the plotters were a good investment!

Anyhow, you've likely asked around at the office about lean and agile by now and one thing is clear. No one can agree on what it is…they were going to buy some books and send some people to conferences a couple of years ago, but that budget got cut…something about vision and plotters…They do agree on one thing though! That it isn't easy! It is hard and takes a long time to really "go agile". Even so, lots of folks seem to be getting pretty excited by it. What would they know though? None of them have MBAs…or at least you bet they wouldn't if you took the time to ask…they certainly don't get business and how things work in the real world. At least not the same way you get it, you devastatingly clever bastard!

Well, like it or not, a lot of your people are clamoring about this, and a few of your competitors have been recently "going agile". You don't want to fall behind! Here is a surefire way to change nothing while still "going agile":

1. Send your three best managers (the ones who do the best job commanding and controlling their resources) and your three worst managers to "Certified Scrum Master" training. This may seem odd, but you effectively get six certified Masters of Scrum, the leading Agile Methodology, for effectively half the price! (Nobody misses those other three guys anyhow…we aren't really sure why we keep them, but we never seem to fire anyone for any reason)

2. Go back and actually read that whole article in that trade mag. If you can't find the ten minutes that takes at least skim the bold print and italicized words. This way you know the lingo! You will be able to hang with the geeks and tell if they are bullshitting you! If you want to be a true lean/agile thought leader in your organization, repeat this step for at least two more trade magazines. If you still have time, consider a book summary to round out your agile education. Do not bother reading anything else. As you will soon learn from your Lean Words that is called "waste"...nonessential reading and learning. Besides, not much has changed since Fredrick Taylor developed Management Science over three decades ago...but you knew that, because you got an executive MBA a few years back to get that promotion!

3. All change requires a manager of the change process. We all know this. Choose a manager that has been around for a while and isn't really going anywhere with his career and appoint him to "Director of Agile". His duties will be reading the full articles in the trade magazines and maybe even a whole book. He should also know at least 10 names of book authors and know approximately 35% more buzz words than you. He will make lots of checklists to give to your new agile teams and report back to you on the new agile status of your agile projects in your agile project management software…I recommend Version One…it does so much that you'll never need, but DAMN it's expensive and you will get to brag about how much you spent on "going agile" with your friends on the executive golf course next month! Besides…the reports and charts you can make with that thing…it's every PMPs wet dream! You can even track things that don't even make sense!

4. Do more of what you have always done. I mean you're successful right? So do more of that. No need to actually question the status quo or actually change things. We all know change introduces risk and there is that IPO to think of. One caveat to this is if your company is struggling. In that case it is especially true that you not change anything! I mean, are you crazy? If you know what you are doing isn't working why on earth would you try something different? Just do more of what got you there…it's obvious you weren't doing it enough, otherwise you wouldn't be having problems. Also, don't confuse not changing anything with not spending money. Buying fancy tools and expensive consultants to not listen to is often the easiest way to appear to be taking action in the face of adversity.

So the bottom line is, you and your company are already the shizznit! You know this. I know this…but you can accept that times change and sometimes we need to use different words to do the same thing…that is business my friend, of which you are well aware.

Go forth! Learn new words! Be AGILE!


  1. Wow, you are cynical beyond belief (and spot on, of course).

  2. Hmmm...my cynicism doesn't apply to all humanity, just "enterprise leadership"...and I aint talking Star Trek! Also, this particular view has been (to some extent) witnessed and not purely based on belief or conjecture :O

    I obviously had to exaggerate a bit out of fear that some exec out there might take it seriously ;)

    I also take changing this mindset pretty seriously and anyone that works in that space I think should be allowed the angsty blog post from time to time!

  3. Look, that KanBan thing is all well and good to show off in the developer work area, but let's not just throw cards on there willy-nilly. If you want to add another task card, just email it to the Agile Approval Board, which meets on alternating Fridays. They might not get to it in the very next meeting, but probably within two or three. Then they'll set an appropriate due date and approval path for that task card.

    See? The company supports your Agile efforts!

  4. lol!
    Reminds me of the Manifesto for Half-arsed Agile Software Development


    I highly recommend everyone print this out (on plotters if you have them ;) and hang it up in your team-space/cube-farm :D

  5. Well, Matt, well-put. You just described a future client of mine. :) -- GeePawHill

  6. Oh no...I hope not! I'm sure you can get them to see the light :)

  7. Was I supposed to enjoy reading this as much as I did?

  8. The part about the plotters made me snort Diet Coke!

    I talked this evening with Eric Landes "the Microsoft way to do Agile" and it was a little scary. We weren't disparaging them, but talking about how at large companies it is VERY TOUGH to make change, and when you intend to be radical, it's like trying to stuff an elephant into an envelope. Even with a large envelope, it tears and breaks and you just get awful papercuts, not to mention the unsightly stains from the red tape.