Anti-Agile Personalities – Part 2

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In my previous blog post I listed personalities on the management side that stood in the way of efficient, modern product development. In this post, I will cover some of the personalities you might find in the actual development teams.

The Old Work Horse image

The Old Work Horse

This person has been at the company forever (or at least, they are one of the people who have been employed for the longest time). During their employment, multiple fads for product development have either come and gone, or nothing has ever changed until now. Change is seen as a nuisance. All this person wants is peace and quiet at work and that things stay the same from now on.

How can you help this person adapt a more constructive way of working:

This might require a bit of coercion actually: this kind of person needs to find that change is good, and that can only happen if they feel they came up with the idea in most cases. Try to find something they’ve always wanted to change, but have never been given the opportunity to. If you dig deep enough, there is most likely something. 

Another important part is to frame it as a time limited experiment and that if it doesn’t work, you can always go back to the old way of doing things. Then the loss and effort will be limited. 

The Expert image

The Expert

For some reason, this person has the idea that whoever’s job it is to do whatever is needed doing should take their needs into account when doing it without the expert having to be involved. A common reason for arguments is when something has been designed by someone else that the expert later deems impossible to implement. The design or specification work is definitely someone else’s job, i.e.not anything The Expert wants to be involved in, but if it is done in a way that then makes it difficult for The Expert, they tend to be very vocal about this.

How can you help this person adapt a more constructive way of working:

By pointing out that the knowledge of the expert is important to have access to in the work and expressing a desire to learn from them, they might be more willing to participate in activities that are not directly within their area of expertise.

The Nine to Fiver er image

The 9 To 5:er

The 9 to 5:er is not very passionate about what they do for a living. They might have taken a programming course after seeing an ad somewhere that states that after the course they’d be paid a much higher salary than what they had before. Hence, they only do it for the money. (Long disclaimer: It is important to point out that you don’t have to be all that passionate about what you do at work so you spend all your time at it as work/life balance is very important. Once you leave work, you should be able to focus on other things. What we’re talking about here is to care about what you do at work and the people you work with and do your best once you are there. If you don’t care about your work or your colleagues, it might not be the best place to be for you. A paycheck is important, but ideally it should be combined with doing something you enjoy.)

How can you help this person adapt a more constructive way of working:

In order to get such a person to participate, you need to find something about the work you do as a team that excites or at least interests them. What that might be is very different for different people so there is no one solution for this.

The Content image

The Content

Change IS hard. Continuous improvement takes hard work and a lot of creativity. If you don’t feel any immediate pain, it is much more comfortable to sit back and do what you’ve always been doing. Thinking about what can be changed can also be challenging for people who, for most of their adult life, have been working in an organization where the room for change has been very limited. Just the prospect of having to come up with creative ideas of how to improve things can be daunting for quite a few. 

How can you help this person adapt a more constructive way of working:

There is really a few different things that need to be done here. One is finding something slightly outside of what has been possible before to change. For example, some other part of the organization has been holding the team back in one way or another, making a real effort to change that can show that things are not set in stone. 

Another is paying attention to small things that annoy the team. It might be as easy as getting walls to shield off the team from the surrounding sounds, or getting better sticky notes. 

The last, but not least important thing, is to figure out if there is a way to measure what takes time and effort for the team and selecting to address something there. And then to continue measuring in order to show if there was an improvement or not. By doing these things, it makes it more visible what can be done as well as how it makes the life of the individual team member better which hopefully makes people more willing to contribute with ideas of improvement.

The Fundamentalist image

The Fundamentalist

If Agile was a religion, this person would see the scrum guide as the bible and would read and implement it literally. Unfortunately, they would have forgotten about the agile manifesto and its very first principle, i.e. ”Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. The person most likely will have attended a certification course and passed the test at the end with flying colors, but might not be all that experienced in the reality of product and service development. 

How can you help this person adapt a more constructive way of working:

The different artifacts and ceremonies in Scrum do serve different purposes. However, they might not be the only way to get to the same results. To get somewhere constructive with a Fundamentalist, a discussion and shared understanding of why things are done needs to be had – not only about how they are done. Once such an understanding has been reached, ideas of how it could work in the specific circumstances of the team and organization can be held.

The Lone Hero image

The Lone Hero

Almost all organizations have, at some point, someone who is involved in almost everything. Often this person was hired early in the history of the company and has been working there ever since. Through the years, they have accumulated a lot of knowledge, but they have not been equally good at sharing what they have learned. This means that the person now is a bottleneck for a lot of things that needs to be done on a regular basis within the company. It also means that the person most likely have problems being away from the company and might not be able to take that many days of vacation each year. This might eventually lead to either burn out or financial loss for the company. The person is most likely very devoted to the company and proud of what they know. At work, this person feels valuable and appreciated.

How can you help this person adapt a more constructive way of working:

The first step is to realize that this person exists and who it is. (A clue is if a step that needs to be taken to put something in production has a first name.) The second is to make the person comfortable about sharing their knowledge. It can be by pointing out that they are the expert and, for most part, will be involved in things even if the knowledge is shared, but that by sharing the information, the person will be less stressed and can focus on a few things at a time instead of everything at once. By formally being called a mentor, for example, the status of the person is shown to be recognized and valuable. A tricky thing to solve is to find someone or a group of people the person would trust to share the knowledge with. People that they think would do as good as a job as themselves given the opportunity. This can often be solved by involving the person in selecting who to mentor.

The Sad Truth

All advice about how to get people to be more constructive aside, not everyone is cut out to work in agile organisations. You then have to make a choice: go ahead with working in a way everyone is not comfortable with or let some people go. If you then choose to try to get the people who want to work in an agile way to leave or the ones who don’t is entirely up to you. In any case, having some people being miserable at work will not benefit them nor the organisation. That said, getting people to leave is not all that simple for various reasons and should be a last resort. Even so, it is sometimes necessary in order to allow the organization and the people in it to thrive.

3 Comments

  • 1
    Antonio Quintieri
    2019-09-27 - 19:05 | Permalink

    Annali,
    thanks a lot for such great, two parts, summary of anti-agile types. what you described resonate much with my experience so far and I recognize myself into some of the description as I was initiated to agile, start to practice it and finally enjoying it. it was not an easy journey, the love for status-quo, to do in my-way (at end of the day i was an expert in my field, why should I change?)
    with you permission, i was thinking to make your types in a form of a card-game for teams to play at retrospectives and reflect on their own journey, what you think?

    thank you again and have a great, sunny week end

    • 2
      Anneli Olsen
      Anneli Olsen
      2019-09-28 - 13:02 | Permalink

      Hello Antonio,

      I am very glad you enjoyed the posts and I feel honored that you actually want to develop them further. As long as you include a reference to the original posts and author with the game I don’t mind the slightest. I would love to see what you come up with so please share whenever you feel it’s appropriate.

      Have a nice weekend!

  • 3
    Birgit
    2019-09-29 - 18:02 | Permalink

    Dear Anneli,

    Thank you for these two articles about anti-agile personalities.

    What I liked best is that you not only listed the personalities but also show a way how to help the person and find a more constructive way of working.
    This way of doing helps everyone and is a very good mindset.

    All the best,
    Birgit

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