On Being Part of the Problem

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He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

Matthew 12:30 King James Version

Two weeks ago I visited the Agile Testing Days in Potsdam. It is an awesome conference and if you have the opportunity to be there in 2015, do consider attending. I am sifting through the talks that I attended and the conversations that I had, and will try to come up with some form of retrospective. Today something struck me about ‘being agile’ that actually never occurred to me before. I think it was my visit to the Agile Testing Days that actually set the train of thought in motion that lead me to this realization.

Actually, the thing that struck is me probably as revealing as the fact that the earth rotates around the sun. And yet it takes an actual experience to really know what it means. The realization is that when you are a member of an Agile team, this implies that you are part of the solution for the problem that the team is trying to solve. It means that you are enlisted to throw all the capabilities you have at the problem. You may not have the capabilities to solve the problem entirely so that is why we have teams of people who complement each other. But you are part of the solution.

The thing that made me feel this was that I was pleading my case before a team member, inviting him to help, assist or guide me in whichever way possible. The way I actually said it was: “Please feel free at any time to correct my insights, come up with a better plan, teach me things that I do not know or do anything else to make this solution that we as a team are working on, a success.” I made this plea because this same person provided me with some critical remarks in the days before. Remarks such as “I do not think this is documented in the right way”, “I think there is a better way to report these results”, “I think there are persons who are in a better position to evaluate this situation” and “I think we should take another look at the decisions that we made.” Without expanding on what he actually thought.

So this plea was probably my final attempt to get this person on board, a final invitation to show me what was on his mind and how things could be improved. I probably could have handled a 45 minute rant detailing how he thought we should move forward from this. Yet the sphinx-like answer I got was that I should be asking him the right questions, based on which he might offer me some of his insights. Which is a game that was last played in ancient Greece.

In an Agile team, when you criticize the work of a team member and after that vigorously and consistently refrain from offering help, then you’re not part of the solution. And if you’re not part of the solution, you’re not part of the team.