Mar 192013
PhotonQ-Homer' s Evolution Theory

PhotonQ-Homer’ s Evolution Theory (Photo credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE)

The Random Language Cloud (Confusicus Maximus)

Example Quote: “Does anyone Scrum the backlog issues into maximum value for the business process?  What are the risks and how do you number the point enhancement?”

Description: Maybe it’s because English isn’t their primary language.  Maybe it’s because the contributor has a very complex concept in their head and has trouble expressing it clearly.  Maybe it’s because someone wanted to spark a discussion and increase their influence for the week.  Whatever it is, the Random Language Cloud is commonly found starting discussions with questions that make no damn sense.  Sometimes, they will also interject into a discussion, but that is a much rarer sighting.

Natural Predators: None.  Virtually nobody interacts with an RLC, although I’d give someone five bucks if they’d just post a reply to one that said, “…what.”

The Guy You’re Not Even Sure How to Start Fixing (Falsus Presuppositionus)

Example Quote: “In agile, what is the best file format for the BA to give me the up front requirements document?  Or do you prefer an electronic tool?  I’d really like to minimize the amount of communication the team has to do.”

Description: Great care must be taken with the GYNESHSF, because some of the time, deep down, is someone who genuinely wants to learn and genuinely has no clue.  They are only difficult because there is obviously a long string of knots that need untying before you can even start to address the issue they raised, but in the long run, the effort is usually worthwhile for both parties.

There is another breed of GYNESHSF, however, that is bound and determined to cling to their original presuppositions and want you to say things that will fit it.  A common sign is the comment, “Well, X wouldn’t work here.”  This is actually a great way to troll agile discussions, but a very bad way to have a real one.

In either case, when this species moves from asking questions to offering advice, get ready to grab a mop and a bucket of napalm.

Natural Predators: Theoretical Agilists – these guys will spend all day with the second breed of GYNESHSF.  Experienced Agilists will spend all day with the first.

The Humble Noob (Genuinius Noobicus)

Example Quotes: “I’m just starting out trying to be more agile, and I’m having problems understanding how to do relative estimates.”

“I’m actually new to all this, but we tried Practice X, and it seemed to work all right.  I’m not sure if it’s the best way to do things or not.”

Description: A reasonably rare sighting, the Humble Noob is great. They genuinely want to learn and are aware that they don’t know very much.  They are careful with their questions, and the advice they offer is suitably qualified with the idea that they may not know the best answer, but they’re just trying to help.

Natural Predators: Theoretical Agilists love these guys because they can rattle off answers from The Textbook without any fear of challenge or contradiction.  It validates their credibility and releases endorphins.  Experienced Agilists, in their best moments, also have a bit of Humble Noob in them throughout their career.

The Theoretical Agilist (Armchairus Quarterbackus)

Example Quotes: “Kanban is no good for software development.”

“Apple is more or less an agile company because Steve Jobs was a Product Owner.”

“Do you have a Product Owner?  Why don’t you have a Product Owner?  You need a Product Owner.  Preferably a certified one.”

“This article by Ken Schwaber answers your question.  You should seriously read this book.”

“That’s Scrumbut.”

“Process is the enemy of Agile.”

“Agile coaches should never help with the team’s actual work.”

Description: The Theoretical Agilist has read books and perhaps has gotten certified.  They are, surprisingly, often Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters.  They may even be advising actual teams.  However, the common characteristic they share is that they really don’t know what they’re talking about because all they know is what they’ve heard or read.  They do not learn from their experience, if they even have any, but instead force their theoretical knowledge upon their experience to try to make it fit.  They are often very good at selling themselves and presenting themselves as subject matter experts, but very poor at articulating the foundations for their views or practical applications.  Professionally, they will happily charge you money to provide no real value except by accident.

Pantheon: Ken Schwaber (the one true inventor of Agile, which is usually a specific process), Mike Cohn (his greatest prophet), Steve Denning (the Real Business Expert)

Natural Predators: Me. Seriously, I lose my s whenever these people show up, and they become more numerous with every Scrum Master certification class.  I am trying to work on this because occasionally in these self-proclaimed experts is someone who really just wants to learn but is insecure expressing that, and I don’t want to turn those people away.  I also don’t want to be a jackass to anyone, but I so, so am when this happens. So, opportunities for personal growth there.  But if you ever want to troll me on LinkedIn, the best way is to jump into a discussion about agile and say that Kanban won’t work in software development and support this by quoting Steve Denning’s blog.

The Experienced Agilist (Mythicus Unicornus)

Example Quotes: “I’ve tried Practice X at four different companies and it worked really well.  It didn’t go so well for one company I tried it at, and I think it’s because it wasn’t a good fit, there, so I tried Practice Y and that worked.  But usually, I try to go with Practice X if I can.”

“Let me show you the change in delivery metrics of this team over the past six months.”

Description: These people have been forged in the fires of adversity.  They, like the Theoretical Agilists, have usually read a lot, are often certified, and sometimes work as full time Agile Coaches or Scrum Masters.  The key difference is they have been at this a long time and can articulate the differences between The Textbook and An Actual Business.  They can also tell you when The Texbook is dead on.  They can also tell you under what circumstances their favorite techniques don’t work well and what better measures are.  They can demonstrate their successes numerically and do not shy away from talking about their failures and what they’ve learned.  They don’t just know What To Think, they also know What To Do.  They know when to let an organization come to their own realizations, when to push them in the right direction, and when to go, “Look, guys, what you’re doing is just stupid.  Stop it immediately and do this other thing.  Just trust me on this.”

Natural Predators: Theoretical Agilists swarm these people like sharks, because 99.999% of the time, their advice varies to some degree from Holy Orthodoxy.  They are also both appreciative and critical of leaders in their field, which does not sit well.

Where do you fit?


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  2 Responses to “The LinkedIn Evolutionary Chart”

  1. I’ll admit to being a bit academic (supernus academicus) in online forum posts and the like. But with clients I’m a realist. Do you run into the theoretical agilists working as coaches/SM/team members often?

    More and more I see these people being called out, and more and more I see us getting business after [insert big consulting company] has screwed things up for a year and the client has fired them and come looking for “someone who has actually been successful a few times, with PROOF.”

    • Erik, what you have found is what I see as well. I often wish prospective clients would just put their options in a room together and have us talk about some issue they’d like to improve, because I think the differences between people who know their stuff and people who don’t become incredibly apparent in real interaction.

      Incidentally, I feel the same way about martial arts and sparring. It’s easy to be a master in your own dojo. Not so easy on Friday Fight Nights down at the Whiskey Tango.

      Yes, I do find theoretical agilists in coaching or coach-like positions with a large degree of frequency, although it does seem like this is starting to slowly thaw. I think organizations are starting to realize that because someone says, “I know Kanban” or “I’m certified in Scrum,” that doesn’t mean they can actually help them.

      I think it comes down, once again, to how often people are actually challenged. I don’t know what it’s like in Chicago, but in Kansas City, you could walk into an organization, call yourself an agile expert, and tell them they need to use the I-Ching to do their budgeting process and have a reasonable chance of not being called out. If it doesn’t go well, you can blame it on the culture or the team not following the process.

      Like I said, this is starting to change, but way too slowly for my temperament. 🙂

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