A short time ago I was working with an agile coach. He was quite experienced and well known in the agile community. He also held a wide variety of certifications.
We were working together on a project that had, if I were to be honest, quite a few cultural and organizational challenges.
There was one specific individual who always seemed to be the most challenging. My coaching colleague and I were talking about them one day and he was grousing (complaining) about them to me.
No is a very tricky word. I often talk about agile teams needing to “just say No” to various things. For example:
- If their Product Owner expects them to deliver more than their capacity
- If their Boss asked them to deliver faster and it would violate their Definition of Done agreements
- If a Team Member continues to “go it alone” and refuses to collaborate as a team
Then I’m looking for the team to say No. Whenever I bring this up in classes or presentations, I always get pushback. Always. Usually its not based on the situation, but to the word. It seems No is a word that nobody likes using in the workplace.
There’s a wonderful video by Henrik Kniberg where he explores the role of the Scrum Product Owner. In it he makes the point that the most important word that a Product Owner can use is No. That it’s incredibly easy to say – Yes to every request. To pretend that things are always feasible or easy. But that No is important. No implies that trade-off decisions need to be made on the part of the customer or the organizations leadership. That the word leads to thinking, discussion, and decision-making.
One of my favorite movies of all time is A Few Good Men with
Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. I can picture that highly charged confrontation
at the end clearly in my mind. You know the one.
Tom Cruise says—I want
And Jack Nicholson
leans forward, with that classic look, and says—
You Can’t Handle the
What a climax to the film. I get chills every time I watch
I’ve been thinking more and more in my coaching about why
leaders and managers often wait too long to ask for agile coaching help. I
think it’s a general phenomenon in agile (and non-Agile) teams and
organizations, but for the purposes of this article, I want to focus upward—on