Going To The Dark Side

I discovered the other day that I have apparently gone over to the dark side of Agile. It’s unfortunate, but understandable given the circumstances. You see I’m a manager now. The minute that happened there were some telltale signs that I really should have noticed earlier. I caught myself telling people that I mentor things like, “I am your father…” I’ve noticed that line gets me a few puzzled expressions in the office. It seems to work better with the kids. Then one day the color of my light saber changed from green to red. I’ve seen the movies and everybody knows what that means. Still, I didn’t suspect a thing at the time. Even when I took to wearing a floor length black cloak around the office like some sort of pudgy corporate goth, I just told people I was wearing it because I was chilly. I didn’t fully comprehend the full power of the dark side until I started to deflect impediments.

Deflecting impediments is like a drug. There is this feeling of satisfaction you get when you manage to deflect dealing with an impediment holding up a team’s progress that is like nothing else I’ve ever felt. Well, actually it’s a lot like strangling a puppy. Yup, we’re definitely on the dark side now people. However, deflecting impediments is not as easy as you might think. Just like being really lazy, it is more work than it first appears. In the interests of furthering the evil methods of the Agile dark side, I will share some of my diabolical impediment deflecting techniques with you.

Minimize the problem. The key here is to dramatically downplay the significance of the problem. The team has come to you for help. It’s your job to convince them that it’s not really a problem. It’s really not that bad. That issue won’t slow you down that much. You can work around it. It has always been that way. If you can master this technique you will become the Jar Jar Binks of management effectiveness.

Delegate to the Team. If you can’t get them to acknowledge that it really isn’t that big a deal, don’t worry. The fallback position is to look at them with an appraising eye and say, “Don’t just bring me problems, I respect people who bring me solutions. So what do you propose?” Let them stumble about and come up with some lame idea. Then smile and say, “Perfect, you know how to solve this yourself!” They have thrown the problem toward you and it has whipped about full circle and ended up right back in their laps! I call this the boomerang impediment. This is worth doing just to see the expression of indignant outrage on their faces. Feel free to combine it with some sort of dramatic gesture (a closed fist works well for me). The coup de grace? Tell them you’re going to hold them accountable. Trust me, at this point the evil laugh just comes naturally.

Reject the problem. Take a tip from Obi-Wan. Just wave your hands and say,

“These are not the impediments you are looking for…”

There are couple of strategies that you can use here. You can plead that it’s outside your control. Sorry, not my department. It’s those bastards in accounting. The point is, there’s nothing you can do. You’d love to help, but you can’t. Every time you manage to do this, somewhere in the world a Scrum Master loses its wings. Or if you are feeling really evil, just tell them to take it to the scrum of scrums – nothing ever gets done there.

Together, using the dark side, we can halt the forward progress of any team. Does my voice sound deeper? Repeat after me: “Come over to the dark side and together we can bring the corporate world to its knees!” Now, does anybody know where I can get a black helmet? How about some platform shoes?

2 Responses to Going To The Dark Side

  1. Liza says:

    Dark side – love it! I, too, have called my role “the Dark Side” ever since I went into management. Haven’t acquired the black helmet, yet. I would still say that my Agile practices, though, are more like a Jedi Master than a Sith Lord. I spend more time teaching younglings the way of the Agile than deflecting impediments. Where I work, there is also serious value in engaging the team and help them figure out their own problems rather than solve it for them.

    • Tom Perry says:

      Excellent! Together we can set the “younglings” on the path to the dark side! Keep working on your evil laugh. If you want a little bit more of that deep James Earl Jones tone, I recommend taking up smoking.

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