• The Virtual Agile Coach

#TalesFromTheTrenches - My biggest failures as an agile practitioner




In this episode of #TalesFromTheTrenches, I explore some of my biggest failures as an agile practitioner And there have been many. The tales from the trenches videos will explore and share real life experiences & war stories with agility. We'll explore scenarios, challenges, concepts and identify actionable takeaways that you may wish to experiment with in your own agile journey as your forge your own tales in the trenches. Let's get straight to the juicy stuff.. I don't mind admitting my own mistakes. An few examples of my past failings;

  • I have been uncomfortable with silence in workshops I facilitate, perceiving this to be a bad sign, so I've interjected with my own thoughts and subconsciously altered the direction of conversation with my own biases


  • I've been guilty of feeling pressure to deliver and as such, pushing my own agenda on teams rather than allowing them to discover the best ways of working for them


  • I've been guilty of dogmatically applying agile principles, methodologies or frameworks rather than applying common sense or tailoring the approach to the needs of the people


  • I've been guilty of not turning that mirror on myself and examining my own behaviour, my own learnings.

In my experience, people do not like the word failure. It's a dirty word, a negative rather than an opportunity to learn. This especially rings true with certain demographics or levels of hierarchy within companies.


They do not like to fail, or be seen to be failing. I firmly believe we need to de-stigmatise failure and it's why I've embraced the motto 'Learn fast, learn often'. This slight tweak in language I've found has been far more well received by these groups of people. The most successful companies fail. They fail often and they fail fast, and they learn from their failures. I myself consider myself to be the product of failure. A series of mistakes, errors, omissions, oversights, defeats and frustrations. But I've learned from these and I continue to learn each and every day. Now what surprises me about this topic also is that even my fellow agile practitioners are often reluctant to talk of their own failures. I've shared on a few occasions now the 'Failure swap shop' concept which looks to share war stories with one another for the purpose of learning.


Even those who are often out there encouraging teams to do their retrospectives and examine their behaviour are often unwilling or reluctant to be vulnerable and turn that mirror on themselves and examine their own failings. How do I embody 'learn fast, learn often' personally? I came up with the concept of #Solospective. Definition - A mindfulness activity, a retro for one.


I perform this weekly and I demonstrate vulnerability by sharing this with my fellow professionals. It challenges me to be mindful, to take on new experiments and learn frequently what's working and what isn't. So my top tips here for the topic of failure; - Tweak the language slightly and embrace 'Learn fast, learn often'

- Practice what you preach and #Solospective every week where you recount on your learnings, your failures, your achievements and plan your next set of experiments.

- Encourage an environment where people feel safe to experiment and fail. Look for decisions to be made based on data, establishing of hypotheses and learning from the results of the experiment Check out the YouTube version of this post below;



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©2020 by Chris Stone - The Virtual Agile Coach

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