Psychology of Pseudo-Agile

At every encounter with a struggling and sullied Agile stroll, I have seen a group of managers trying to look good. Their troubles began with the rising social pressure of adopting Agile. Or, an edict from top management. Around them Agile exists in name only. The obvious dis-ingenuity raises a question, "What drives the improvident behavior?" In the composite of emotions, the following stand out:
  • Fear and stigma. Accepting and tolerating failures is not everybody's disposition. With failure comes stigma. Agile doesn't bear fruits day one or even in the first attempt. Combine the two, and avoiding (a change to) Agile makes sense. Rest is self-explanatory.
  • Pain avoidance. Middle management is often the point of friction within an enterprise. It's the layer that tries to insulate the drivers of change from the believers in status quo. It is emotionally painful. Remember, change provokes sensations of physiological discomfort?
  • Strong Beliefs. Humans have strong beliefs. We also have information. However, we have an uncanny ability to pick beliefs over information.
These emotions lead to an environment of:
  • Defensiveness. A reluctant and half-hearted pursuit of Agility usually draws a ton of criticism. It's just how humans behave, specially as a change seeking mob (software development teams). This puts the managers on the defensive. Ironically, defensiveness is recursive. 
  • Distortion - Often the tactics managers employ to keep the opposing interests of their teams and their bosses under control.
  • Cognitive Dissonance and Bigotry - Distortion slowly widens the gap between the beliefs, messaging, and actions within the management circles.
  • Herding - Negative outcomes of cognitive dissonance eventually lead to embarrassing state of affairs. Denial prevails and the brave choose to coverup. Risks are hedged and the "like-minded" coalesce. Panic breeds packs.
  • Political Jostling - Groups start to joust, which then inflicts its punitive tax on Agile adoption. 

Final Thought

Any large group of people (organization) is fraught with political challenges. A lot of us disapprove of the politics; some shy away, others dismiss it. Meanwhile politics doesn't stop its play. It frustrates even the best of us. What if we dealt with politics like any other problem? Could it be that politics is a veneer of some underlying and innate fears? That would change your perspective, wouldn't it?

Image taken from: