Exploration Through Example

Example-driven development, Agile testing, context-driven testing, Agile programming, Ruby, and other things of interest to Brian Marick
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Wed, 26 Jul 2006

An unhappy trend: leadership

At Agile 2006, I'm seeing or inventing several unhappy trends that I want to call out.

At the first Agile Development Conference (the predecessor conference), I noted with surprise how often the word "trust" came up. At this conference, the surprisingly common word is "leadership." As in: "what's needed to make Agile succeed is executive leadership." Noteworthy: what was once called the Executive Summit is now the Leadership Summit.

As an inveterate champion of the little guy, I've always hated the Great Man theory of business. That's the idea that it all depends on the brilliance and Will of the Jack Welches and Chainsaw Als. I'm seeing that theory accepted as a matter of course in Agile, and it bugs me. It's part of the domestication of Agile: the fitting of something potentially disruptive into the comfortable patterns of life.

Imagine, if you will, the Great Man theory of the Scrum Master: "a team needs the leadership of their Scrum Master to excel." That's the opposite of the truth: the Scrum Master is not a master of the team; she's a master of Scrum: she knows best how the team can use Scrum to succeed. The team leads her, rather than vice versa. As both Mike Cohn and Ken Schwaber have said to me, one of the hardest parts of being a Scrum Master is not leading: is keeping your mouth shut and insisting that the team solve their problem rather than depending on someone else to tell them what to do.

I view executive leadership in the same way. We know how to do software better. It's the executive's job to support us in doing that—to clear obstacles out of the way of our practice—and not to lead us. We already know where to go. We know how to do our job. We need to be assisted, not led.

## Posted at 06:01 in category /agile [permalink] [top]

About Brian Marick
I consult mainly on Agile software development, with a special focus on how testing fits in.

Contact me here: marick@exampler.com.




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