Oath of Non-Allegiance

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Jesse Fewell – a long time proponent of building bridges between the world of traditional project management and agile – has brought to my attention the newest initiative by Alistair Cockburn – “The Oath of Non-Allegiance”:

I promise not to exclude from consideration any idea based on its source, but to consider ideas across schools and heritages in order to find the ones that best suit the current situation.

This should be obvious in the context of looking for ways to better run projects, but clearly it is not. The world of agile is full of divisions, bickering and discussions that remind me of good old days of comp.os.advocacy. As Jesse points out, even the thought leaders of the agile community practice very little collaboration that is the cornerstone of this whole approach. Why?

I think there are two reasons for this.

First, for some agile – or, worse, just one flavor of it – has become something akin to a secular religion that gives their lives sense and meaning – the one and only true way to not only run software projects, but also “transform the world of work” and people’s lives worldwide. It doesn’t matter if this attitude is true or faked – believers will fight with each other over slightest details always defending their chosen flavor of agile. They will also savagely attack anyone who dares to suggest agile is just a tool.

Second, once money is added to the mix things are bound to get hot. People have built their livelihoods around teaching and promoting certain “labels” and, naturally, they will fight to protect what they consider to be their turf. This is exactly same reaction as the one we are getting from “traditional project managers” when promoting agile – they feel their jobs are at risk from methods with no room for someone that will tell workers what to do.

Both attitudes are normal and very human indeed, however they should not shape the world of agile. I think most of us – people involved in agile – want to get things done. I’m enthusiastic about Scrum not because I think it will put the whole world as we know it on its head – but because I know from first hand experience that Scrum simply works on software projects. I’m pretty sure there are projects where it would fail – and I would use other, more appropriate methods there.

I’m sure there are more pragmatists like me and it is a good thing that their voice is heard. I signed the Oath.

  1. Gunnar Scheffler

    From many people, more of the weaker type of personality, I perceived, the struggles between traditional and agile methods. It is as they need confirmation, they are on the right way. It is human, but weak.

    From Leaders, the stronger kind, I learned about the sense of using best out of both worlds. Even in both worlds, there are clearly stated paradimes, to choose, whatever helps in all the different specific contents, we face in projects and organisations.

    And after 20 years of changing systems by very different kind of projects, I learned, I am agile by tradition and follow the oath all times.

    The challnge in this is, to know alternatives to choose from. So lets proceed as offered: Train anyone, encourage to choose, accept failures, respect, and help to grow the base of real professional (project) managers.

    I sign the oat!


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