Beware The Agile Fad Diet!

Written by:  Robert Woods

Posted: 5/16/2016

We’ve all heard (or in some unfortunate cases, lived) the story. You know how this goes...

Beware The Agile Fad Diet!

You recognize there is a need for change. Your health may actually depend on it. Clothes don’t fit like they used to, you’re tired a lot, sick a lot, don’t sleep well and you may have even had a health scare or two or three. You KNOW you have to lose weight but the options for doing so require...well...work. And even worse, a change in lifestyle. Quite frankly, you just don’t have time to carefully watch what you eat and regularly exercise.

But wait!!

I know someone who says there is a new pill or plan or routine that will allow you to “lose weight and feel great” without changing anything you’re doing now! As a matter of fact, HERE are examples of people just like you who can attest to how great this worked for them.

(Fine Print: Results not typical. Individual results may vary).

“That’s it!” you say. “I’m going to lose 25 pounds in 2 weeks just like they did and not have to do anything different than I am doing now!” Wow, why isn’t everyone doing this??

You buy the book\pill\routine and 2 weeks later you may have even seen some results. You feel ‘better’ but man, this is hard to keep up long term. And then it happens…the barbecue you were invited to a little while back that requires you to deviate slightly (3 hot dogs, 4 non-light beers, 2.5 s'mores, 1 more hot dog) from your latest attempt at better health.

Discouraged, you abandon your latest dietary adjustments because “it’s just not going to work for me and my lifestyle.”

Unfortunately, this is how some organizations approach Agile. They see there is a need for change of some sort and in some cases it’s because of a serious problem that has forced us to consider changing. Along comes this thing called “Agile” where we get our products faster, people work harder, I have more control, revenues increase, costs reduce and employee morale is through the roof!

And all I have to do is put my work on a wall with sticky notes and have 15-minute meetings every day?? I hear company XYZ tried this and they LOVE it! It’s the way people do business now.

So we read Agile for Dummies, watch a few YouTube videos, throw together a small pilot team and start making it happen. Initially, we see some success. But we’re also seeing some failures, in various areas. We’re producing work but not as fast as we thought we would. We’re having to change our scope from what we’re learning which is unexpected. Our business folks didn’t think they would need to be THAT involved. Then it happens...the barbecue.

Something or someone comes along that causes us to feel like we need to deviate from our Agility. It’s not going to help us here or we’re so thrown for a loop that we revert back to what we knew previously, our old (habits) ways of working.

Well...it was worth a try. Agile just isn’t going to work here.

Just like fad diets, without the continued support, hard work, willingness to change and proper education, Agile can quickly become just the latest attempt to get more from less by someone looking for a quick fix to what is really a lifestyle (or culture).

To make a diet work, you have to educate yourself well, make hard decisions and choices, be willing to be honest about your current struggles and have the courage to change old ways. Another way this becomes successful is through a support system. Wanna know why Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig have been successful? Slow adjustments with ongoing support through coaches and peers. It’s one thing to open the fridge, have that last cupcake stare you in the eye and mentally go toe-to-toe on whether to eat it or throw it out (good luck with that battle). It’s another to have someone standing next to you saying, “Don’t do it!! Put your hands in the air and slowly back away from the cupcake!”

Just like trying to improve overall health, and not just lose a couple pounds, it requires a lifestyle adjustment and so does becoming Agile as an organization. The most successful stories of people who have done it come from those who didn’t try to do it themselves. They got help. As an Agile coach, I am often approached by the fad dieters. The ones who read a book, saw a little success, are doing pieces of it but wondering why they aren’t seeing the same successes as company XYZ. Perhaps they are even considering dropping it all together because “Agile just won’t work here”.

Do you find yourself in that exact scenario?

Start first by embracing the work it takes to transform deeply entrenched bad habits into beneficial lifestyle changes. Being Agile is a marathon, not a sprint (ironically). It takes time, endurance, training, patience and support.

True, some compete in marathons with no help at all. Often, though, they are the ones who embrace everything it takes to be successful with it from the beginning. That doesn’t describe the majority of us. The rest of us probably need some sort of support system for it and have to overcome the mental hurdles that come with such big changes in how we eat, exercise and live day to day.

Don’t let Agile become your fad diet. Be honest with yourself on whether or not you are equipped to go it alone. Otherwise you will be wasting precious time and money seeing small successes but never truly getting where you want to go. Next thing you know, you will be back into those old habits.

It’s true...individual results may vary. Every person, team and organization is different. How much weight you want to lose and how hard you are willing to work may be different from others; your goals are different. But don’t give up. When you are tempted to grab that cupcake, just back away and remember your goals. When the barbecue comes up on the schedule, bring your own food, have a light beer and pass on the s'mores. You’ll feel better and sticking to your new routine will get easier...I promise.

About the Author: Robert Woods

Robert Woods serves as Director, National Agile Practice at MATRIX. Robert has spent years working with organizations on collaborative lean development, Agile testing techniques, requirements analysis, project envisioning, and relationship management, Agile within ITSM and Agile leadership. Robert is the creator of the CLEAR (Collaborative, Lean, Evolving, Adaptable, Reportable) Portfolio Management concept and has developed an entire Agile adoption curriculum. Robert’s passion is helping organizations achieve Business and IT Alignment through creating visibility and collaboration across the enterprise, focus on delivery of real business value and creating great teams focused on innovation, communication and trust.

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