Layoffs are NOT Agile

I’m in the mood for a rant today. I received some news about some more layoffs today. Nothing too unusual in that kind of news, but it was from a company that has made a point of calling itself a thought leader in the Agile Community.

Well, guess what? Layoffs are one the most destructive things that can happen to a company and especially for the people who are laid off. “Agile processes promote sustainable development.” Agile methods are all about restoring the humanity to the process of creating. Layoffs are perhaps one of the most dehumanizing activities that a person can go through. I’m sorry folks, but if you are laying off people, for whatever reason, you ain’t Agile. Not even close. It ought to get you kicked right out of the Agile polo club. For a company to advertise their Agile expertise and at the same time be laying off their staff simply blows my mind.

You might argue that they are getting more “lean”. But I don’t buy that either. It’s a dysfunctional kind of lean. You kick people out, and you terrify those who remain. People learn important lessons when they are laid off:

  1. Companies don’t care how dedicated you are or what value you bring, they just care about money.
  2. They demand loyalty and give none.
  3. They have no idea the damage they cause others and themselves when they do it.
  4. They create that which will harm them the most – employees who behave like mercenaries.

After all, what other sane reaction is there to a layoff? Once you realize that any company will screw you, that they will use you like a tool and cast you away – you become pretty damn cautious. You become very selfish – it’s a self defense mechanism. You’re only in it for the money. You don’t trust managers. You resist any attempt to be “used” by the company (Work overtime? Why? So that you can lay me off?). That’s not the kind of person who is going to do anybody any good. That’s not someone who is going to necessarily work all that well on a team.

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