The existential joys of agile practice: people over process

At Agile NYC I presented a pecha kucha. 20 slides. 20 seconds per slide. This is the third of four parts.

People over process

Cathleen P. Black, who took over as New York City schools chancellor in January, at the Tuesday meeting of the Panel on Educational Policy.

Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

Cathie Black was Chancellor of New York City Schools for three months. She was hired despite having no education experience and no affinity for public schools, parents, teachers and students because she was, “an excellent manager”.

I love that agile doesn’t celebrate management. It relies on individual contributors. It relies on community.

painting by Eiko JudyThe oozy failure wrapped in the chocolatey success of agile is when we focus on process mechanics and lose sight of people.

If we do, our practice becomes arbitrary and abstract.

There’s a study that claims the best and worst performers have more in common with each other than those in the broad middle.

NYC Lego First PitsWhile the best are energized by their caring and use that passion to drive to the best outcomes, the worst are demoralized and ruined by it.

The indifferent middle, they just plug away.

When we impose a process upon a workplace to avoid failure. We rob the best performers of opportunities to engage and care.

Sunset Big IslandWe preclude the best in an attempt to avoid the worst and ensure mediocrity.

I acknowledge that successful products can emerge from awful workplaces. And that that good teams often create failed products.

But working in a way that tears down talented people’s desire for work is tragic. To repeatedly do this this is to sap the world of its limited supply inspiration, creativity and joy.

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About Ken Judy

I am an executive manager, software developer, father and husband trying to do more good than harm. I am an agile practitioner. I say this fully aware I say nothing. Sold as a tool to solve problems, agile is more a set of principles that encourage us to confront problems. Broad adoption of the jargon has not resulted in wide embrace of these principles. I strive to create material and human good by respecting co-workers, telling truth to employers, improving my skills, and caring for the people affected by the software I help build.