Let’s look at what Agile-focused individuals can do to improve their own lives, and, through interacting, help their colleagues and their organizations.

Individuals and Interactions in not-so-Agile situations

Even in a “Scrum Is Our Process” situation, or an entirely non-Agile situation, there are advantages that come from from understanding Scrum and the Agile Values and Principles, and the practices that come from those. One way of looking at my book “Nature” is that it describes things people and organizations can benefit from whether they are officially “Agile” or not.

Some of these advantages help the individual. Some of them help in their interactions with their own team, and some with the individual’s or team’s interactions with the rest of the organization. All of them can help an individual or team better support the larger organization, and they can also help influence that organization if one cares to.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Change your organization

Most often, we’d like to improve our present situation, not set out to find a new one. Sometimes, however, when a person becomes sufficiently knowledgeable about and interested in Agile ideas, they may well choose to find a job where they can put those ideas to use. With any luck, they’ll be happier and more productive. This isn’t the only path, but it’s often a good path.

I believe it’s usually best to find joy where we are, but there are certainly times when moving on is the right thing to do. I recomend moving toward something better, not just away from something that’s not so good.

Focus on your craft

Whatever someone’s particular craft may be: programming, testing, analysis, anything, there’s plenty to learn about it, and plenty to learn about doing it in an Agile fashion. It’s a perfectly sensible and honorable thing to dig into one’s craft and increase one’s skill in doing it.

Sure, there’s always someone around to point out to us that there’s some higher goal to which we might aspire. I think there are many ways to contribute in the world, and that we get to choose how we do that. The pleasure of learning and improving can bring great joy and will make us more valuable in our current or future work.

If there’s joy to be found in your current type of work, go ahead and find it. It will surely improve your ability to help on an Agile, near-Agile, or not-very-Agile project, as well. Keep your eye on producing visible results all the time.

Use Agile approaches to improve team performance

If the organization around us is not particularly Agile, or even if it’s actively hostile to Agile ideas, we can still benefit from growing our ability to work as a team, producing solid software every couple of weeks. The particular rituals of an framework like Scrum can help us plan, execute and improve how we perform within our team, and the ability to know what we can do and to do it will help us look good to the larger organization.

Consider seriously whether we want to ask permission to work in Agile style, or just begin to do it. Consider seriously whether we want to try to sell the ideas elsewhere, or simply do our team’s work well and help people who show interest.

In some organizations, keeping our head down can be the best strategy. And it might just be our preferred way of being: not everyone needs to be out there selling ideas. In addition, visibly doing good work might be the best sales pitch of all.

Use the Increment to improve the organization

Many of the dysfunctions of non-Agile management, and even some would-be “Agile” management, come about because of the inability to see the connection between what is asked for, and what is done. We can use the Increment to help with many of these dysfunctions. For example:

  • If management uses written reports to assess progress, we can report very accurate status when we actually have things in shippable order.
  • If pressure is their way of getting more done, having concrete “done” software can strengthen our position, and our resolve to do things well.
  • If low-value features seem to be piling up while important things are not prioritized, a running product in hand can help people visualize what needs to be done.

As time goes on, I’m coming to think that producing a ready-to-ship increment of software may be the most important Agile practice that’s visible from the outside. (Working software, as the Manifesto said.) If you can’t produce a shippable increment yet, you’ll need to “inspect and adapt” until you can. The availability of working software that you could ship is incredibly powerful as you think about what to do and as you negotiate with others in your organization. Don’t let this slip by.

Other ideas?

What other ways can you think of that might help you spiff up your own situation, or those around you? Give it a go.

Summing up

Many of the ideas in what we call “Agile” can have value to you whether or not you’re in an “Agile” organization. Give some thought to how these, and other good ideas, can help you find a bit more joy in your work and life.