The Agile brown noise

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The other day I came across an article in which office language was being ridiculed. The article discussed jargon words that surprised or even irritated people coming from a completely different background. I can relate, I also think it sounds strange when a spokesperson for the fire department says that his men arrived on site with four vehicles. After all, that means that they were there with four fire engines.  This article about office language was filled with phrases and words from bullshit bingo, and one by one, they were all ridiculed. I usually chuckle along with the columnist and I can often completely agree with him or her. But this time, it hit me. This time it was about Agile.

Agile. That’s what I’m about. That’s my source. For years now, we talk about Agile in every training I give. I see Agile expanding its reach at a killing pace, and that Agile terms are being used ever more frequently. A few years ago, only two or three participants from the group came to the training with some prior knowledge. Back then, everyone still wanted to know what ‘Scrum’ was. It’s now 2018, everyone has at least heard of working Agile, and there are many who actually implement it. Participants now want to apply Agile correctly and certification is becoming increasingly important. Switching to Agile working is the new ‘hype’. The whole world is becoming Agile. And that comes with its own jargon, the Agile jargon. Fortunately.

Agile working, Agile talking.

Switching to Agile working also involves a change in our language. Wasn’t it Einstein who said: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got”? If you really want to change, you will have to evolve all levels in your organization. Working Agile means truly saying goodbye to old customs. We are going to collaborate differently, work more effectively and focus on creating value for the customer. implement small and large changes. We always ask ourselves objectively, perhaps even naively: “Why do we actually do it like this, isn’t there another way”? You listen to your new employees, to the influx of fresh blood. The change to Working Agile touches everything and everyone and so, new terminology is added. This is also important because it underlines that it really is a departure from the past. The Scrum Guide literally says: “Although implementing parts of Scrum is possible, the consequent result is not Scrum.” This means that if, for example, you maintain old jargon and old rituals, it is not clear what has changed, and you will not receive the full benefit from working with Scrum.

Evolution of job titles and procedures

That is why a schedule becomes a backlog. A team leader becomes a Scrum master and the Unit manager has applied for the role of Product Owner or Chapter lead. The daily call you got stuck in is now a 15-minute stand-up and we refer to meetings as refinement sessions. Recently in the elevator I heard: “Sure, I’m taking care of alignment with the DevOps team this afternoon to eliminate this impediment. We can then put this issue to rest and do some darts this afternoon” (He was indeed referring to playing a game of darts.) Not only has our language expanded with all kinds of new terms, but our working environment has also been enlivened with games. A foosball table, a PlayStation with FIFA, a punch bag or an espresso machine. I even saw a drum kit somewhere, but after checking with the team; playing it was only allowed after office hours. That, too, is Agile.

Act normal

Is there any limit to the changing language? For participants in my training courses, there is. We are very willing to change things in our left-brain hemispheres. But don’t bother an IT Professional with ‘soft’ things. That really rubs them up the wrong way. When I say that I “facilitate the learning process of my participants”, those participants look at me bewildered, and rightly so. You are the trainer after all? An IT professional wants clarity. A problem may become an impediment but never a “challenge”. You can receive help, provide support in a 1 on 1 or a bilateral meeting, but I can’t “boost your strength”. I will never “not recognize” something; However i can, “not know”, or “not understand” it. We can brainstorm mitigating measures during a risk workshop, but we won’t “hook up in a creative thinking process”. IT guys (and girls alike) love professional jargon, as soon as this becomes vague, the IT person is no longer interested. Act normal, will you? Well, our normal.

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