3 guerilla tactics to avoid losing control in an agile environment

Door Patrick Verheij

Imagine yourself working in an environment where people try to become more “agile”. Suddenly they expect you to collaborate with other people, be transparent in what you do and focus on specific results.\r\n\r\nSCREW THAT!\r\n\r\nYou just want to keep doing a great job! YOUR job!\r\n\r\nAs thing are, you have a lot of fun and above all a lot of freedom. No way you’re going to give that up for the sake of “agile”!\r\n\r\nTo help you keep agile at bay, I present you with 3 amazingly effective guerilla tactics. Use them well to ensure your well-deserved freedom and avoid losing control of your destiny!\r\n\r\n1. Avoid being transparent\r\n\r\nFirst of all make sure that nobody understands what you are doing. Hide everything you do in a cloud of mysticism. This will confuse people who want to control what you do.\r\n\r\nDoing this is very easy, especially in large companies. Just be compliant by using the digital tools available for backlog management like Jira. When you put your workload in such tools, you can rest assured that no stranger will ever understand anything about what you do. Limited access due to restrictive authorization will help you lot too.\r\n\r\nUsually these tools have way too many features and are just too complex for nosy people to comprehend. Even when they insist to have a look, they are easily deluded by the many lists, tables and graphs you can juggle with. They will cower away while making you compliments to avoid the embarrasment of having to admit that they have no clue about what you just showed them. If you’re dealing with executives, the colour green is your best friend. Always.\r\n\r\nNow some Scrum Masters and especially these friggin’ agile coaches will insist that you put stuff like story maps and other plans on the walls for everybody to see.\r\n\r\nNo friggin’ way!\r\n\r\nIn most companies this will be no problem at all because of fire prevention policies or just the fact that no wall space or whiteboards are available. And even IF these are available, just put all kinds of useless stuff on them. Posters with creepy agile slogans like “keep the campsite cleaner that you found it” for example. Or some random flow charts. That leaves no room for the stuff that you need to keep safely hidden.\r\n\r\nAnd even if that’s not enough, then just create a friggin’ visual plan board for the sake of it. Put some dummy data on it and let it rot till eternity. Trust me, nobody will ever ask anything about it. And if you display it nicely with straight lines, you will even get compliments for having such a neat board!\r\n\r\n2. Write user stories about your own work\r\n\r\nTrsut me when I say that most people have no clue how to write proper user stories. Most people don’t finish non-fiction books. And even if they do, they are often hesitant to criticize what other people do. Just be certain of yourself and sneer the wise guys away!\r\n\r\nSo write all your user stories in such a way that they express exactly the work that you wish to do yourself. An generic example:\r\n\r\nAs a business analyst I want to analyze the crap out of this new concept so some customer will benefit from it when it gets released eventually.\r\n\r\nIt is amazing, but you will get away with it! Just make sure to match the text to the concept you work with. Especially people in analyst and architecture roles have plenty of options and thus freedom of work! Even as a tester you can get away with anything easily:\r\n\r\nAs a tester I want to create a testing framework so future tests can be easily automated and cycle times will drop like poo from a horse!\r\n\r\nIf you have no specialism or are completely clueless, just volunteer for the role of Product Owner and have a blast dictating what other people should do:\r\n\r\nAs a PO I want to have all requirements for system X so we can start the design phase.\r\n\r\nWhen people start asking about customer value just look at them intensely and say “of course this work contributes to customer value, duh!“.\r\n\r\nJust try it. See what you can get away with. I predict the answer to that is “everything” if you combine this tactic with the previous tactic, avoiding transparency.\r\n\r\n3. Be a to-go person within the company you work for\r\n\r\nThis tactic requires you to be a social and likeable person OR a person who excels at a specific and much in-demand skill. That’s why a lot of IT people also get away with this tactic aside from the management trainees.\r\n\r\nWhen you know a lot of people, chances are that many of these people are very busy. They can use some help. Often they are eager to delegate some work to other people. So the more people you know who need help the more you can choose where to offer your services and get access to the work you like to do!\r\n\r\nJust do that!\r\n\r\nAnd then explain to your Product Owner that you have really important things to do aside from all the team stuff on the sprint backlog. Usually they will leave you alone, especially if the other people you work for have some status.\r\n\r\nQuite often you can stay away from your team and avoid those dreaded Scrum events like the Daily Scrum (yuck!) and especially those horrible refinement sessions (puke!).\r\n\r\n4. Bonus tactic for executives only: avoid being part of the system\r\n\r\nYou are extremely lucky when you are an executive within a company. Usually that means that you are excluded from anything that relates to agile. It was you that hired the consultants to “implement agile”. FOR you, not WITH you in it.\r\n\r\nSome years ago it was especially easy because agile was seen a an alternative project management method for IT projects. Get shit done. Nowadays it has found its way to the business domain. But there you now have Product Owners under your command. Get more shit done.\r\n\r\nYou know that everything else is covered because the consultants convinced you that “the SAFe Framework” is fully implemented or we are now completely “LeSS”.\r\n\r\nWay to go!\r\n\r\nNow grab your golf clubs and have a swing at the green! Meet your VIP pals and have yourself inspired. Then head back to the office the next day and initiate an urgent new program to get your fresh baby going! Rest assured that your “resources” will comply!\r\n\r\nLife is awesome at the top, isn’t it?\r\n\r\nNow for some reflection\r\n\r\nLet’s now assume you are a skilled professional who loves to make a difference in the world and who is dearly committed to the great company you work for.\r\n\r\nThen, of course, you will do the exact opposite of what you just read. Then you will teach people how things can be different:\r\n


  • How transparency can actually enhance job satisfaction when you dispose of fear.
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  • How writing proper user stories can get you towards customer value much faster.
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  • How being a to-go person can work out amazingly when you focus and commit to a vision.
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  • How being part of the system as a VP can be the tipping point of an agile transformation.
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\r\nJust be gentle because most people who apparently apply guerilla tactics don’t do that on purpose. They just don’t know the things you know. Yet.\r\n\r\nChoose your tactices well. The agility of your company depends on you!\r\n\r\n 

Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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