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InfoQ Homepage News Opinion: Racism in the Agile Community Hinders Learning

Opinion: Racism in the Agile Community Hinders Learning

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Earlier this month we published The Role of Project Managers in Agile by Vinay Aggarwal which contained some non-mainstream ideas concerning self-organizing teams.  Unfortunately there were racist remarks left by readers.  These remarks were removed and the offenders were banned.  But this brings up another question, that of, "how does racism affect or ability to write and deliver software?"

Vinay made an argument for project managers as very highly qualified individuals who are absolutely needed on teams to shore up the weaknesses of the members of a self organizing team:

Agile coined a new term called ‘self-organizing team'. I am personally a big fan of self-organizing team. It works fine many times especially in those cultures where people display very high standards of responsibilities and duties in public life. This is because people carry forward these high standards to office also and become a perfect match for ‘self-organizing' team. To have every employee working in a self-organizing mode is the dream of all corporate. But like all human beings are different and unique hence not everyone can be eligible to be fit into ‘self-organizing' team. e.g. every doctor cannot become surgeon or dentist or orthopedic but still every doctor is useful to the society. Similarly it's impossible to expect from everyone to work in a ‘self-organizing manner'. Though same individuals (who does not fit into definition of self-organizing) can still be great contributor provided handled differently. This is where role of project manager becomes very useful who with little or more (depending upon individual) supervision can extract the best work from a team member.

When we decided to publish Vinay's article at InfoQ, we did so because his point of view was contrary to that of the crowd. Here is a man who is reporting weaknesses of self-organizing teams as he has seen them and suggesting a solution that his teams have used. What we had hoped, was that this would spark a debate where the mismatch between Vinay's report and others would help clarify when self-organizing teams work and when they don't. Unfortunately, what we found were several racist remarks and a few more dismissing his understanding of self-organizing teams.

Which brings me to the point of this editorial. We - the members of the Agile community - owe it to ourselves to welcome confrontation and be diligent in calling out places where those who question us are dismissed. Only by questioning the way we work with an open mind can we really learn and grow. This is true for us as individuals, and as teams, and as a community. This example is a glaring one, but every day I see many in the community dismissing new ideas by labeling the ideas (or in this case, their authors) instead of addressing the issue.


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