Agile and Fear Come Hand in Hand
If you’re planning on molding your small team or entire organization into an agile group, fear will be involved. It’s natural to be afraid of the unknown—scared of what changing your entire methodology can mean for productivity, team cohesion, and, of course, the bottom line.
Stephen de Villiers Graaff, principal agile consultant at DVT, compares the transition to agile to his first open water scuba dive. There was little visibility, swirling waves, and a complete lack of experience. He was terrified of what was to come, but while completely removing this fear is an impossibility, you can work through it.
If you’re looking to make the whole organization agile—through iterative work cycles, continuous improvement, and direct feedback from customers—fear has to be involved to some degree. Complacency often emerges when fear is stamped out, and this complacency leads to a lesser quality of work from everyone on the agile team.
Agile is, of course, a team effort, so if even a single member becomes arrogant or tired of the method, your final product will suffer. Before everyone buys in to the process, de Villiers Graaff states that there will be necessary discomfort.
“Everything will become visible. In the harsh light of reality, there'll literally be no place to hide,” he writes. “Tough questions will be asked, and they'll need to be answered. The words ‘No!' and ‘Why?' will pop up everywhere. They'll only add to the discomfort.”
But in order to foster a culture of honesty and trust, this uneasiness will have to be overcome. The development and testing teams will have to form some sort of trust to be able to intelligently and efficiently work together to produce products of a higher quality standard. Airing everything out beforehand, no matter how scary that might sound, is a critical step on the path to this goal.
Software developer Laurent Bossavit explained to StickyMinds that agile pushes individuals to challenge conventional thinking and let the people who do the thinking also do more acting.
“I think one of the distinguishing characteristics is agile explicitly encourages people to be more inquisitive, to confirm their beliefs through the experience of reality,” Bossavit explained. “... To contrast that with software engineering's approach which is, I think, more tinged with a sort of Taylorism or a Fordism, if you will, where there is a clear distinction between the people doing the thinking and the people doing the doing.”
You won’t have to literally jump into deep, dark water when you’re making the transition to agile, but you will likely be fearful to make that move. Embrace the fear—just don’t let it hold you back.