Everybody on your new team says they know Agile. Don’t believe it

Early in my Agile career I was the only person on my team who knew anything about Agile. Now everybody claims to know Agile and/or to have Agile experience. Certainly this has been true for most people on my last couple of teams. My advice to you is – don’t believe a word of it. Assume they know nothing.

Hands up who knows Agile

PM: Hands up everybody who’s been on an Agile team before.
Team: <all raise hands>
PM: Great. Let’s get on with it.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as that.

I pretty much always have to form my team before I can build anything. I might inherit a few permanent staff members from existing teams but usually I recruit in quite a lot of contractors.

Now days all of the contractors claim to have Agile experience. However if you dig a bit you’ll discover most of them mean “I’ve been on a project where the word ‘Agile’ was mentioned in some context but really it is all a bit of a mystery to me.”

Assume nothing

Now days I assume nothing.

Of course people on the team will have real experience of Lean-Agile in some incarnation. However, I ignore this for a couple of reasons:

  • the starting point has to be the lowest common denominator, which is no knowledge
  • you’re about to create a new incarnation of Lean-Agile and it might bear no resemblance to what they’ve done before

The best you can hope for is that some folks have done some bits of the new process. So better to assume nobody knows anything and go from there.

And next month I’ll look at What do I do when nobody on my team knows Agile

This post is part of my What do I do When … ? series. Please drop me a line or add a comment if you’ve got a question you’d like answered.

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