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Looking Inward To Stop An Agile "Decline And Fall"

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Discussions about agile's "decline and fall" have been a somewhat recurring theme here on the AgileQ, and in the community in general. They center around sentiments that people aren't adopting agile effectively, that they're doing it wrong and screwing it up; and that "agile" is suffering as a result. Kevin Schlabach poses the idea that the agile community itself, by not growing new leaders, has a hand in causing this.

On his popular Agile Commentary blog, Schlabach recalls the way he was introduced to agile:

When I started in the agile community, I worked with several great coaches. These were individuals who had proven experience in Scrum, XP, and other practices. They were "journeymen" with an interest in showing others how to do it. They insured that I learned how to do it correctly. I wasn't on the internet reading and learning about it, I had hands on coaching. Thus, I came up to speed quickly and I had a very positive, thorough, successful experience.

When I think of anyone entering our community, I hope they might learn through this same type of experience. Unfortunately, I believe the opposite is happening more often than not.

He follows with a proposal as to why today's agile newbies aren't getting the same level of good, hands-on help he did years ago:

Many of [the agile innovators and early adopters] have worked in agile for so long that it is easy for them to take these practices for granted. Their Ri (expert) level experiences have allowed them to forget the Shu (beginner) level needs. They've moved on to much bigger problems like "enterprise", "off-shore", and "whole system optimization". These are good problems to solve, but you have to teach several coaches to replace you!

Schlabach goes on to explain how the recent explosion of mainstream agile acceptance and quicker knowledge-uptake potential of newer "community generations" combine to create a disparaging mismatch between the amount of beginners needing help and the amount of practitioners giving it. In essence, when agile was new, the "big names" and their people could handle the demand for assistance with agile adoption, but not any longer.

His ultimate point comes then, targeted to the "practitioner"-level community, as a call-to-arms for people to help fix this by taking time and care to contribute back:

So... if you've been doing agile for over 3 years and you've been successful at it, what are you doing to help the community? Are you bringing your experiences to folks and sharing them? Do you venture into communities where there are people at a different level than you? Do you explain what worked for you, or do you tell them how their approach is wrong? Do you throw the book at people and shake your head, or do you wrap your arm around them and bring them into the circle? Are you too focused on innovating to see who we are leaving behind? Do you focus on everything a person is doing wrong, or do you help them find something to do right? Do they see the benefits after they've tried it, or do they just follow this new set of procedures you've described?
People need guidance on how to start with agile, and we shouldn't allow them to be led astray by the snake charmers and other bottom feeders latching on to our community. It is in our best interest to reach back and pull people up with us as we continue to grow.

What do you think? Are we, the newer generations, not doing enough to contribute back to help the next generation of beginners to get it right?

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