Process vs Passion

When working an Agile project I spend a lot of time trying to get past the “when is it due?” question. Whether it’s from team members or from other teams, people still have a tendency to focus on the process of developing software and where they fit in that process.

Agile isn’t about “when is it due?” Agile focuses on “when can it be done?” And, while that can be a little frightening, it’s freeing as well.

The fear comes from being concerned others won’t think you’re good enough.  When everything is “as soon as possible” people think that means “fast.” At Scrum meetings I hear explanations for why it will take a long time or why it’s taking so long instead of answering the three basic questions (what did I accomplish, what will I accomplish, what is blocking me). It takes a while for people to understand that we’re not trying to find a scapegoat, and we’re not asking them to commit to the impossible. We are just asking what they can do, and then asking them to do it.

Once they understand, then the freedom comes in. When you don’t have to worry about how you’ll be judged you’re free to work the way you think you should. People who have accepted this lesson stop worrying about making excuses and start asking why they can’t do more? If the team says we can’t do the User Interface until we’ve created the Application Programming Interface the UI designer asks why he can’t mock the API until it’s ready. If the tester is told he can’t validate the results until the UI is in place the tester asks whether there are test tools he can use to validate under the hood. The team starts to find new ways to get things done sooner, because sooner means they can do more.

I titled this process vs passion because process can sometimes kill passion. But I have to caution that all process can’t be thrown to the winds. Scrum specifies a Definition of Done and a Working Agreement because some process is the glue that holds a team together. Too much process, however, smothers the team. So we need to create enough without creating too much.

I’ve written before about making your work place one without fear. This is another reason why it’s so important. When people are afraid they hide behind process. But when they are free to explore their passion, you will see amazing results.

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