It seems to me that a very great deal of "agile" advice has an implicit prefix, "assuming your team is close to healthy," you should …
The assumption of reasonable health just — to put it as gently as I can manage — doesn’t seem like the sort of assumption we should be making.
The industry — agile & otherwise — is in terrible shape. The demand for geekery seems to rise year after year, and it brings with it the single bright note: there are plenty of jobs and they pay. But the rest of it? Not so good. We have awful relationships with our customers, and the consequences of their (almost entirely justifiable) unhappiness are such that it’s extraordinarily difficult for us to do the one thing we almost universally agree needs doing: change the way we make software.
I’m reminded of nations with gigantic international debt. The thing they need to do, change how their economy works, is the one thing they can’t do because of the desperate need to service their outrageous debt.
"I can’t honor my prior obligations, and I need more money so I can restructure practically everything, and all I am asking you for is more of the trust you already extended. A lot more. Of the trust. While you forgive my debts." ludicrous on its very surface. And yet, every creditor nation on the planet has done it and continues to do it. Why? It is because they accept the grim reality, that they might as well officially cut the losses they’ve already unofficially suffered, in the hopes of getting back pennies on the dollar and eventually getting a stronger trading partner.
What can I do to convince our creditors to accept the grim reality? Our geek structure can not service its investors, and because we spend every waking moment trying to service them and failing, we can’t make the changes that might make it possible to service them.
- I need stronger geeks. But I can’t get stronger geeks without attending first and foremost to growing them and keeping them.
- I need newer models, but I can’t get newer models because at least the old one has the merit of being what everyone else is doing.
- I need to escape micro-management, but I can’t escape it because micro-management outperforms nothing at all by about a tenth of a penny on the dollar, and I have no room to give up that mill.
- I desperately need healthy creatives, but our structure is almost guaranteed to either make them sick or drive them away or both.
How can I convince these decision-makers of this?
"you can keep spending more and more money for less and less value, or you can drastically change your expectations and your approach, so we can maybe fix this. That’s an awful choice, and I don’t envy you. But you have to choose. So what’s it going to be?"