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Are you a dinosaur in disguise?

Marc Rodan, Chief Ninja

10 December 2018

“The world is developing faster than ever”, “be Agile”, “respond to change”… Chances are you’ve heard things like this plenty of times already. Heck, you may even be tired of even hearing the word “Agile”. But just think about it for a moment: are you really being Agile today? Or are you just a dinosaur in disguise?

Spotting dinosaurs

Organizations all over the world have adopted Agile methodologies, such as Scrum and Kanban. You could say it’s becoming the new norm of working.

But as using Agile methodologies becomes more normal, the associated practices turn into habits. And when things become a habit, we tend to stop thinking about changing or improving what we’re doing. You do things just because you do them, not because they’re still the best thing you could be doing.

You may have a Retrospective meeting, just to have it. Because that’s the way things are done. You’re not really evaluating how your team works together, and you’re not really taking action to improve yourself.

When this is the case, you’ve become a dinosaur in disguise: an individual or team that tells itself that it’s Agile, but in reality, you’ve stopped improving. You’ve become stuck in your habits. And as a result, you’re probably losing energy and not delivering as much value as you can be delivering.

But in the worst case scenario, your team (or even your entire company) go extinct.

You’re being outperformed by another team internally, or by a competitor. Simply because you’ve stopped improving in a meaningful and Agile way.

“A dinosaur in disguise: an individual or team that tells itself that it’s Agile, but in reality, they’ve stopped improving.”

How to prevent becoming a dinosaur in disguise

I believe there are at least two things you can do to prevent becoming a dinosaur in disguise: 1) never stop questioning, and 2) always keep improving.

Never stop questioning. By being critical of yourself and your work processes, you prevent getting stuck. Getting stuck in the idea of believing that you’re doing the right thing, just because you once decided that whatever you’re doing is the “right thing”.

While you’ve stopped questioning yourself, the world around you keeps changing. A new technology might come along, or something in your company’s structure changes so that it would be best for you to adapt the way you work. To continue to provide maximum value to your customers, and to yourself (because why work harder if you can work smarter, or with more fun?), you have to keep an open mind and never stop questioning things.

A great way to make this easier is by switching up the format of your retrospective meeting. Try not to have the same format twice, but keep things fresh, fun and creative. That will stimulate the people in your team to share more, and to look at things from new angles. 

Is this you?

Photograph by Ryan McGuire via Gratisography

Always keep improving. To always keep improving may sound a bit more like a cliché. Yet, it’s one thing to keep questioning things and noticing what can be improved, but taking action based on your findings… that’s an entirely different story.

Taking action starts with formulating concrete and actionable improvements. Formulating one or two of these improvements should be the main goal of your Retrospective meeting.

To make sure that the improvements will truly get implemented, it can help to assign one or two people to each action. They then simply help their colleagues in upcoming sprints by reminding them of the improvements and what needs to be done. Maybe give them a cool name too, like “Action Masters”, or “Super Improvers”. Their job only ends when the whole team agrees that an action is properly implemented. So don’t forget to start your Retrospective meetings by considering your previous improvements and whether you’re still acting on those!


Mastering the power of habit

Habits are great, extremely powerful and as you know by know: potentially dangerous. Even the good ones.

Identifying your habits can be hard. And changing them can be even harder. But it’s extremely important that we’re aware of them by continuing to question things, so that we can keep improving ourselves.

For more on habits, I strongly recommend the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It was a a huge eye-opener for me and it will help you to identify and change your habits.

And of course: not to become a dinosaur in disguise.

Marc is co-founder of Ninjafy with a deep love for all-things-creative and helping others to make work awesome. Connect with him on LinkedIn

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