A Project Manager and a Scrum Master walk into a bar. The Scrum Master is doing most of the talking.
It’s after work on Friday and Pam, the Project Manager, has just found out that their company is in the beginnings of an “Agile Transformation” and that on Monday she will begin the transition from Project Manager to be a Scrum Master. As part of the company’s initial pilot program that started last month, her friend Sue, from work, had already been certified to be a Scrum Master, transitioning from her project manager role on her team. Upon hearing about the company’s move to Agile, and her role change coming Monday, Pam googled around, read the Agile Manifesto, and asked Sue out for a drink.
On the short walk from the office, up until they reach their bar seats, Sue explains all about Scrum, of which she is a certified master. “It’s been going pretty good,” she explains, “we talk a lot more. Our old role is kinda split into two roles, Scrum Master and Product Owner. I still don’t know what is going on a lot of the time with what we are working on. I kinda miss managing what needs to be happening.”
On their way into the bar, Sue is talking about the daily stand-ups where “everyone meets everyday to give their daily status update,” which she likes. Grabbing two open seats at the bar, Sue is talking about the sprint review where the team demonstrates what they’ve gotten done. Sue explains that, after the sprint review, the team then meets to do a retrospective exercise where they talk about what went wrong and what didn’t with the last sprint. “After the retro, we plan the next sprint. We keep things moving sprint to sprint, but I can’t help but to think it’d be more efficient if the Product Owner and I could just plan it all out ahead of time.”
“And this is all about going Agile?” Pam asks.
The bartender, having been listening but not hearing this word yet, asks, “What are ya thinking for drinks… and…what’s Agile?”
They look at Sue, the Scrum Master. She stumbles a little, “ummm well Agile is actually called Scrum and it’s about moving faster… we do iterations, and we inspect and adapt…”
Pam, having just read the Agile Manifesto earlier at work, exclaims, “It’s the Agile Manifesto! There is a part where they value one thing over another, and there are principles too. That’s Agile! Anything that checks all of those boxes. Read the Agile Manifesto, it’s online.”
The bartender looks over to another customer, who seems to be really drawn in to the conversation at this point and says to her, “are you getting any of this?”
The bar customer, finishing her drink, says, “Agile is just a word. What makes Scrum agile?”
Sue stumbles a little bit again, “It kinda just is… we do our work in smaller chunks, we do sprint reviews and if something isn’t working, we can fix it. We do daily stand ups to know what’s going on to be more agile. All those meetings make it Agile.
Singling for the next drink, the bar customer asks, “Why does that make Scrum agile?”
Sue felt like maybe she was being teased, but remembering her certification course, she felt good about the answer she had in mind so she said, “because we inspect and adapt!”
Bar Customer: “Why is that agile?”
Feeling like a prank was happening, Sue asks, “Who are you, my 5 year old?”
The bar customer responds, “No listen. Close your eyes. Imagine a typical Saturday. What are you aware of?
“For me, I’m aware of my situation, all the things I might do next, how involved they might be, the order I might try to do them in.
“Then I set out to do the first thing. As I’m doing it, I’m aware of how it’s going, I’m aware of how it might be affecting what I wanted to do next.
“One of these things might be going to the store where I become aware of a detour on my route. I go the long way. Aware now that one of the things I had wanted to do will be better done tomorrow.
“There’s a knocked over cone in the middle of the road! I swerve and avoid it.
“This is my personal agility. Awareness. Deliberation. Decision. Action. The better and faster these are, the more agile I am. Something is agile if it brings awareness into itself and encourages positive change based on that awareness. The better and faster it is at this, the more agile it is.
“I was listening before. Scrum is agile because it brings awareness into itself and encourages positive change based on that awareness. Each one of those meetings is an opportunity to become aware of a new reality and the point of those meetings is to adjust course if that new awareness implies a better direction. Even the working in iterations, which are essentially optimized points of awareness into the evolution of a larger idea; these enable agility. That’s the best time to see if your efforts are going in the desired direction, when everything is working pretty good. You couldn’t make as good of a decision on any other day of a sprint.”
Pam, unable to stay quiet any longer, “What about the Agile Manifesto?!”
Bar Customer: “What about it?”
Pam: “Your story didn’t mention it at all…”
Bar Customer: “Does it bring awareness into itself? Does it encourage change based on that awareness?”
Pam: “ummm I don’t know… it’s been the same for a long time now, I think.”
Bar Customer: “That doesn’t sound very agile, does it?”
(They googled up the “Agile Manifesto” and read it quickly quietly)
Bar Customer: “This is a manifesto that is consistent with being agile when developing software. Agile is its own thing. Just a word with meaning.
“Each one of these statements and principles is consistent with seeking awareness and allowing for needed changes.
“Plans, contracts, documentation, tools and processes are important, but they need to be subject to change at any time given awareness of new realities coming from the collaboration in making something work.
“Awareness enables agility, and those values in the Agile Manifesto, although focused on software development, define a necessary flexibility. Beyond this, developing software or just life in general, you still need to bring good thinking to action quickly to really be agile. So, increase awareness, make things easy to change, but don’t forget to learn and get smarter to make better decisions faster too.”
Bartender (pouring a beer and the tap sputters): “I’ve become aware of a kicked keg… I’m going to change it quickly.”
Bar Customer: “Good thinking! Agile bartender!”