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Aug 15

A man went to the Doctor

A man went to the doctor:

“Hello Doctor, I have epicondylitis lateralis and I think we can fix that with Shockwave. Shockwave is a brand new treatment that is faster, cheaper and better than all the other methods. Everyone I know does it. Don’t bother looking that up for I’ve done some research on the internet. It’s the best there is. I really think that Shockwave is the solution.”

Where the doctor says: “Well alright then. It’s very nice that you have done some research but while you come to me with a problem I will, being the professional I am, first try to find the cause of your problem before we’ll find a treatment. First things first. I’ve studied for this you know.”

A man went to the ICT supplier:

“Hello sir. All our projects are late and over budget and I think we can fix that with Scrum. Scrum is a brand new method for developing software which is faster, cheaper and better than all the other methods. Everyone I know uses it. Don’t bother looking that up for I’ve done some research on the internet. It’s the best there is. I really think that Scrum is the solution.”

Where the supplier says: “No problem sir. Scrum is the best there is. I even use it at home! We Scrum all the time. We will start right away if you want.”

Not the goal

I know that a customer asking for Scrum must sound like heaven for some. We are so passionate about our agile ways of working and thinking that we want others to experience and gain from this too. But working agile is not the goal. It can be a way to achieve goals but is not the goal itself. The Doctor has a point: without searching for the cause of the pain, any solution is a lucky shot.

It might scratch. It might scratch really really good. But if it’s scratching where it doesn’t itch, it makes no sense.

To really help a customer we need to take responsibility and say: “It’s very nice that you have done some research but while you come to us with a problem we will, being the professionals that we are, first try to find the cause of your problem before we’ll find a treatment. First things first. We’ve studied for this you know.

 

 

# This article started out as a translation of “Komt een man bij de dokter…” on the Finalist Blog and still partly is. While translation however I found out that I rather wanted to focus on processes instead of products.

Permanente koppeling naar dit artikel: http://agilethings.nl/a-man-went-to-the-doctor/

  • Ok, so the customer walks in and asks you to work with scrum. I would ask him why (maybe even 5 times why), because I would like to understand what the customer really wants from me. It would help me to get the “requirements” clear.

    And, if somewhere along the way, I find that there are valid reasons why the customer is asking for scrum, and I also have good reason to use scrum, then we can jointly agree to collaborate like this.

    If it becomes clear after talking with the customer that het is not looking for close communication, frequent deliveries of working software, feedback and embraching change, then we should find a way that better fits our needs for working together (no pun intended).

    So yes, I agree that you should first understand what the pain / problem is before posing a solution. But maybe you find that solution together with your customer? Where I’m assuming that the customer also studied and is experienced in what his company is doing :-).

    • Niels Talens

      It depends on the environment I guess. I  also like to find solutions in how to work together along the way. That is agility. But in some cases where a customer for instance demands Scrum in a  customer /supplier way and sales agrees with that it is a bit different I think. Not everyone has the room or experience to cope with that. 

  • Patrick

    Good point, Niels. Only last week I encountered many examples of agile professionals rushing towards conclusions and advisong Scrum even before the client stopped talking.

    But please do not confuse Scrum with agile. While Scrum will never be a goal, being agile might be. We want organisations to become agile so they can serve their markets better. Working agile is something else than being agile. The one might lead to the other. Working agile is a mission, not a goal.

    Nevertheless, you are spot on with regard to the reply of the professional. It is absolutely necessary that we aim at mastering that!

    • Niels Talens

      I agree that Scrum should not be confused with agile and that being agile is entirely different than being agile. 

      With working agile I meant doing Scrum or Xp or something else (in this case what the customer asks for). That cannot be the goal. The goal is solving a problem regardless of any method or mindset. 

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