The Agile “Shine On” (Visibility and Truth in Agile)

Recently the post “Zero to Fear in 60 Seconds” appeared in Agile Juice . This great post highlights some of the challenges with the transparency and fact-based status assessment that agile purports to deliver. Simply put, it’s not unusual (at least initially) that the apparent visibility provided by the daily standups and story status tracking may paint a far rosier picture than the facts warrant. The post points out that these problems may not be discovered until the hardening iteration, by which time it is too late for effective corrective action. The article provides some rationale for this behavior, along with some recommendations.

Perhaps some of the reasons for this initial “agile shine on” (overly optimistic reporting) include:

1) our organizations and software development practices haven’t necessarily evolved in a fact-based way prior to agile adoption (typically reporting on plan until it’s proven that we are not)
2) companies have sometimes used the facts as bludgeons, rendering a fact-filled environment risky for the fact provider
3) people are people and asking them to step up to the bar of personal accountability is not a guaranteed win for all practitioners (the bar may be too high for some)
4) people would rather not deliver bad news

This just reminds us that visibility isn’t free and initially, it may not even be transparent!

So as leaders,  we must constantly foster and encourage the delivery of truthful and factual information at all times. We must never punish the messenger; rather, we adjust the process. Remember, the Facts are Always Friendly in agile.

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