Inside the Secret Fears of Adamant Anti-Agilists

Wonder why some people are adamant that Agile can’t work; won’t work; shouldn’t be tried; or is the work of the devil? I do.

Mind you, I’m not talking about rational skeptics who question anything and everything. I’m a rational skeptic. That’s part of being a tester. I questioned XP and Agile when I first heard about them. I figured Agile was a fad that would blow over, kinda like CASE. It took me a while to realize the value in Agile and XP.

So I think skepticism is good. Skepticism prevents us from blindly following the latest trend or from believing the Snakeoil Salesman who stocks a wide range of Silver Bullets.

But people who rant, at length, about how XP just Won’t Work; how Agilists might as well wear saffron robes because it’s obviously a Cult; and how Scrum is a marketing scam, all without having actually experienced or witnessed first hand the thing they’re arguing against? I wonder about them. I wonder what trauma induced such rancor. I wonder where the bitterness comes from. Most of all, I wonder when those people with so much to say against Agile actually listened enough to figure out what it is.

All this wondering led me to consider plausible reasons for such resistance. I realized that the arguments offered against Agile may not be telling the whole story.

Thus, I present my top 10 list of Secret Fears that I could imagine might influence someone to oppose adopting Agile/XP. Loudly. Verbosely. Maybe even publicly. Like in a blog even.

  1. Moving to a shared workspace means losing my window/door/corner cubicle.
  2. Integrating the team means I might lose my status as the resident QA/Database/UI/Server/SOA/Mobile/whatever Guru.
  3. Collective code ownership means we’ll have to make a final decision on The Great Curly Brace Placement Debate. Ugh.
  4. Collective code ownership means I’ll have to let other people change my precious code. My Code. My Precious. Mine.
  5. Refactor?!? It took forever, and I still don’t know what exactly made the difference, but I finally got it working, and now you want me to CHANGE it?!?
  6. If the business stakeholders knew what we’re actually doing, they might try to stop us.
  7. I won’t be able to claim “done” just by checking in code/finding a showstopper bug/showing that the build is broken. That could seriously interfere with my lunch plans.
  8. I can hardly stand my coworkers in our weekly team meetings. You want me to sit elbow-to-elbow, pairing with one of those morons for six hours a day!?!?
  9. I just know I’ll get stuck pairing with someone who farts/picks his nose/has other odious personal habits.
  10. My teammates will discover I fart/pick my nose/have other odious personal habits.

2 thoughts on “Inside the Secret Fears of Adamant Anti-Agilists

  1. I find it useful to distinguish between skepticism and scoffing. Skepticism means the suspension of belief and the continuation of inquiry. Scoffing is, in a sense, the opposite of inquiry. The scoffer seeks to maintain his own mental status quo, perhaps at any cost.

    A lot of people who call themselves skeptics seem like mere scoffers to me. The Amazing Randi is a famous example. I have also been guilty of scoffing, I know a lot about that from personal experience.

    — James

  2. I think sometimes it is human nature or culture thing. For example, let’s say a development team is reliably creating working software. Consultant X comes along and says “You all should be doing practice Y.”

    The team has never heard of practice Y. Insecurity rears it’s ugly head. “If the consultant is right, then we are ‘wrong’ and bad.” This is not an appealing thought, emotionally.

    _OR_ … the consultant could be wrong, in which case we can maintain the status quo.

    Sometimes, over-the-top agile optimism makes this worse. In my experience, in North America, we like to do two things: To argue and to be important.

    If I come in and say “You should do practice X!” People can argue with me by saying “Practice X stinks” and be important by “winning” the argument and refusing to comply. If they do agree and do X, they are now not important – the brilliant consultant is.

    Weinberg talks _around_ this issue in secrets of consulting; he suggests ways to deliver the message that won’t be self-defeating.

    Sometimes, it’s not the message … it’s the messanger. Like James said, I have also been guilty of arrogant promotion, and I know a lot about that from personal experience. 🙂

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