Attack of the Agilistas

As someone who has been operated as a day-to-day scrum master for over five years, I have had the pleasure of working with over a hundred people in a Scrum setting. Their prior knowledge about Agile and Scrum ran the gamut from those who had never heard of Agile or Scrum to those who have been a part of a team at an existing place of employment. If I had to pick which I would rather have on my team, I would choose the complete novice every time.

Reading in bed one night a wonderful book called The Invisible Gorilla and Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us. One of the interesting facts that was presented involved the fact that people who exhibit confidence in their knowledge are usually the least knowledgeable. In other words, true experts are more likely to not have a high degree of confidence in their assertions. I think that this is because the true expert realizes complexities that someone with just a little bit of knowledge would not even know they do not know. In my experience, nowhere is this more apparent than with people who have had some prior experience with Agile.

My guess is that if you have been involved with a team that is being transitioned to Scrum from another methodology, you have seen these people. I have given them the term Agilistas. I think it fits because these people are very adamant about what Scrum is and is not. They seem to have all the answers, but when pressed on the source of their knowledge all they can say is “This is the way we did it at…” In other words, these folks have not become experts at Agile but have meticulously learned a sequence of behaviors and rules. This is dangerous in the fact that, armed with incomplete knowledge but 100% certainty that they truly know, they are not easily swayed. If Agile were a cult, these folks already drank the Kool-Aid.

As opposed to close-minded Agilistas, a complete newbie is a breath of fresh air. While it takes a certain degree of patience to explain the purpose of a burndown chart for the 10th time, at least at some point in the future you have the potential of having important concepts of scrum understood. Agilistas have evolved as far as they are going to evolve. Nothing will do unless you end up doing your implementation exactly the same as they have done in the past.

Perhaps someone somewhere can start Agilista deprogramming like they have for people who have been pried away from cults by concerned relatives. In the meantime, keep a sharp eye out for the Agilistas in your midst and be prepared to fight on a regular basis.

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