Finding Your Voice

When some people transition from traditional project management to Agile, they seem to lose their voices. These are people who had great, strong, passionate voices. People who felt they were engaged and empowered to lead their teams to success. And then some consultant comes along and tells them that they got it all wrong. The wise consultant tells them that they are part of the problem and need to change their evil command-and-control ways. They need to be a servant leader – one of the most poorly defined roles ever conceived. Guess what happens to these poor bastards?

They get confused! They don’t know what their job is supposed to be. Everything they used to do is suspect, part of that horrible “waterfall” thing. And now they have a team of people who have been told just how evil they are. Nobody trusts you. Why don’t you just remove impediments and stay out of the way? Don’t call us, we’ll call you. If we need you. You don’t code, so you’re not really that relevant anyway.

Soon people are asking questions: where is the leadership? Why won’t these weak Scrum Master creatures take responsibility for the project? It’s the team’s job? That’s funny, I don’t see the team stepping up…and so it goes. Now everyone is confused. What has happened to that rich voice that guided the team? Now it’s a timid peep. It’s a pale, skinny shadow of what it once was.

And so the journey begins. We sit back, watch the chaos ensue and ask ourselves, is this really my job anymore? I’d do it differently, but apparently I have to say it differently too. What should I say? Meanwhile Rome doesn’t exactly burn to the ground. Not exactly. In fact, people make approving noises. Things are better now…aren’t they? After all, we spent 100 grand to get here. Look at our metrics!

At some point, things start to go wrong for the team. Nobody steps in. The pressure builds. The Scrum Master looks around and thinks to himself, isn’t somebody going to do something? The pressure builds some more. Still no action is taken. And then the levy breaks and there is the voice! The voice that demands resolution. The voice that won’t accept mediocrity. A voice that communicates a clear and compelling vision.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Maybe it’s a journey that we all need to make. Perhaps there are no shortcuts. Maybe it was just me hearing voices again.

2 Responses to Finding Your Voice

  1. Jordan says:

    After the levy broke, who’s voice was it that you heard? What did it say?

    Jordan

    • Tom Perry says:

      Honestly?

      Well, it said:

      1) I’m an equal member of the team and I want to be invited to everything, not treated as a special case
      2) I care about how the team is organized, how the team room is organized, how the information on the walls is structured. I care and I expect to have a strong say in how these things are done.
      3) I will not stand by and through inaction let a product owner neglect their job.
      4) I care about good design just as much as anyone else on the team.
      5) I care about understanding the business domain, and sharing that understanding with everyone on the team.
      6) I care passionately about technology and practice.
      7) I care so strongly that will risk my job to insure the team is a success

      Well, that’s a start anyway. Thanks for asking.

      -Tom

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