The limits of advice – outside experts and your agile adoption

It takes something near wisdom to pinpoint the obstacles in your workplace.

By achieving this, you evidence rare concern to improve the work life of peers and improve their work products in ways your organization may not yet appreciate.

But having articulated a problem, you will often find no clear solution or an answer that is obvious but painful.

So you look to others for advice: peers, coaches, and thought leaders.

Don’t be surprised if the advice is unsatisfying. But this is no surprise.

Your challenges may look like a thousand examples but they are uniquely your own. At their root, they source from the people who make up your organization. People with a unique set of preconceptions, decisions, and values systems.

More essentially, you are a unique set of experiences, relationships, strengths and weaknesses and you are the essential agent for tackling this problem.

Be wary of any advice that doesn’t acknowledge this — that fails a test of respect and humility. No outside expert truly understands your situation or is deeply invested in solving it for you.

The best you can come away with is things to try, things to research, new questions to ask, analogies, fellowship and most importantly hope to persevere.

A worthy coach or advisor must approach your situation with patience and empathy. Listen and question as much as advise. Not fill the void of an answer with tangential descriptions of practice. Not pretend an answer that celebrates their abilities more than embraces your circumstances, “What you need to do…”

If you get the sense the coach or advisor is failing to listen or speaking more out of their own needs. Gleen what you can. Thank them. Move on.

But keep trying.

Don’t let the failings of the people in our community discourage you or diminish you. They are just peers with a different context. They are human too. And they are not you.

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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.