Penitence For The 7 Agile Sins


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Dezember 1, 2011

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Half a year ago I wrote a blog post about 7 Agile Sins. As I’m sure, that I’m not the only one who is guilty for one or more of these sins, I collected a list of possible ways to show penitence and to do it better next time 🙂 So here is my list of the sins and their appropriate penitence.

Stop learning

The first way for showing penitence is to help to create a learning environment in your company. One possibility to do this is to introduce so called brown bags. This is at least one corner stone to foster learning and bring new ideas in your working environment.

Don’t listen

Listening is a fading skill in our society. Most men know at least one situation where their girlfriend shouts at them, because they didn’t carefully listen. But hey, there is help underway. Listening is a skill you can learn. There are a lot of great books out there on how to become a better listener. One of them is „The Art of Active Listening„. It’s a quite short one and a good starting point to improve your listening skills.

I also recommend listening to the TED talk of Julian Treasure „5 Ways of Listen Better“. One of the things I found valuable is the acronym „RASA“. It’s the Sanskrit word for essence. The single characters have the following meaning:

  • Receive
  • Appriciate
  • Summarize
  • Ask

If you keep this acronym in mind during your next conversations, it will help you to get a better listener. So one way to show penitence for this not listening is to learn to listen.

Stop thinking

This is simple. Start thinking! I know, the guys behind XP, Scrum and Kanban are keen thinkers. But you know what: They don’t know your context. So, before you blindly follow „the book“, try to understand WHY you are doing these practises. Show your penitence by doing the following: Map each of the practises you use to one or more agile values and principles. This will be the first step on your journey to understand the theory behind the agile frameworks.

Be dogmatic

Your penance for this sin is to look beyond your own nose. There are still agilists out there who believe, that there were no successful projects before agile frameworks came in. Fortunately this isn’t true. There are a lot of successful „waterfall“ and V-model based projects that were successful. And there was one entity that collected best practises and created a book out of them. So your lesson to show penitence for this sin, is to read the PMBOK (Project Management Body Of Knowledge). I’m sure, even as hardcore agilist you’ll find some valuable things in this book.

Ignore the agile values and principles

There is a great exercise described in the book „Coaching Agile Teams“ by Lyssa Adkins name the „High Performance Tree“. Lyssa also created a short Youtube Video where she describes how to create such a tree. This tree has many functions. One of them is to use it as part of a retrospective. You can ask questions like „Why did x happen last sprint? Where were our roots weak?“ or „On what of our high performance traits do we want to work in our next sprint?“. As the tree should be placed on one of the team’s walls, it is always visible and part of the team’s daily business. To make a long story short, your exercise to show penitence for ignoring the agile values and principles, is to draw a „High Performance Tree“ together with your team, put it on you team’s wall and use it in your next retrospective.

Misuse the agile toolkit

I’m sorry but for this sin there is only one way to show penitence: Go get a priest. In our case this means to get help from an experienced coach. I have this opinion because IMHO this happens especially in inexperienced teams. I had teams that were only „trained“ by reading the Wikipedia entry on Scrum. It’s quite clear that there are some misunderstandings in the beginning. But also other teams benefit from an experienced coach, who will help them to understand how to use the agile toolkit correctly.

Ignore the transparency

IMHO this is most deadly sin of all. There is a simple way to overcome this sin: Be even more transparent! Don’t put your backlogs and boards into an electronic tool. Make it visible. Put it on the walls, but not only in the team’s room, also on the floor or near the management’s offices. In one of my last projects we used a so called „master board“ to foster the „Scrum of Scrum“ meeting every morning.

Masterboard for 5 Scrum teams


Each row represents a team and the cards on the board only show on what the teams are working on User Story level. This really helped us to get the big picture of the whole project. Additionally we introduced a dashboard to show the project status using „traffic lights“.

Dashboard for the management team

In the upper left corner we showed the overall status for every planned release. All open issues were shown on the right upper corner. The left lower corner was used to show on what epics the teams are currently working on and last but not least, the lower right corner showed the already delivers epics. This way we were able to completely remove all status reports. Now the management was able to get the status on one single view. One way to show penitence for ignoring the transparency of your team would be to introduce a master board for your Scrum of Scrum meetings.

I hope you like one or more of my suggestions to show your penitence. I’m looking forward to your comments!

About the author 

Marc Löffler

Marc Löffler ist Keynote-Speaker, Autor und Mentor für passionierte Scrum Master. Er befasst sich schon seit 2005 leidenschaftlich mit agilen Methoden, wie z.B. Scrum, Kanban oder eXtreme Programming. Bevor er mit dem Thema Agilität in Berührung gekommen war, hat er als zertifizierter Projektmanager (IPMA) bei Firmen wie Volkswagen, Siemens und EADS erfolgreich multinationale Projekte geleitet. Mit Begeisterung hilft er Unternehmen dabei, agile Werte zu verstehen und genau die Form von Agilität zu finden, die zum jeweiligen Unternehmen passt. Dabei nutzt er sein PASSION Modell, um die jeweilige Situation zu analysieren und sinnvolle nächste Schritte hin zur passionierten, agilen Organisation zu definieren. Er liebt es, neue Einsichten zu generieren, und unterstützt Unternehmen dabei, Probleme aus kreativen, neuen Blickwinkeln zu betrachten. Seit September 2018 ist er zertifizierter Professional Speaker GSA (SHB) mit der besten Keynote seines Jahrgangs. Im Jahr 2014 erschien sein Buch „Retrospektiven in der Praxis“ beim dpunkt.verlag. Im Jahr 2018 folgte das Buch „Improving Agile Retrospectives“ bei Addison Wesley. Im Februar 2022 folgte dann das Buch "Die Scrum Master Journey" beim BusinessVillage Verlag.

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