Agile Trick or Treat – Terrifying Tales From a Coach in the Crypt

‘Tis the season for ghost, goblins and cute children seeking treats. Halloween is the time to delight in all things creepy and crawly! An Agile Coach, however, sees scary things year round. These are a few of the scariest things and what can be done about them. Eeek!

Zombie Product Owners

Product Owner is a key role in the work of a team and getting great value from the work. “Zombie” Product Owners, that are not working well with the team, can be created in several ways.

  • The Product Owner is so busy they are often or always absent from the team meetings and daily work.
  • The team or organization has diverged from good Agile practices and has policies or rules that exclude full participation by the Product Owner.
  • The person in the role does not actually have decision power, requiring too many delays in getting answers and permission as things come up.

This situation can be corrected by following the Agile Manifesto principles that require the business and the customer, the Product Owner, to work with the developers daily. And if the person in the role doesn’t have the needed authority, the organization should look at changing that.

Imaginary Agile Standard Monster

Sometimes a company has decided to “go Agile,” to make the leap to “faster” productivity. Naturally they start this change effort the way things always start, with a complete plan and fully documented Agile SDLC. This new Agile standard is created from the imagination of well intended people without the experience of using Agile in the company. Once published, it becomes the Agile Standard that everyone must follow. A monster to consume and block other possible ideas before the organization has even learned what they really need.

Having an Agile SDLC is not a bad thing. Having one that cannot or is not easily changed is a monster. Start from just enough to get started. Grow your Agile Standard as you would software, incrementally and iteratively, informed by learning and regular reviews. That way you’ll create something that supports you instead of something that blocks what you really need.


Dr. Frankenstein didn’t mean to create a monster, he just thought he could do what nature does. The monster didn’t mean to be evil, it just ended up that way.

Sometimes organizations think we know better than the creators of Scrum or other Agile frameworks. That somehow our situation is so unique that the “generic” frameworks won’t work for us. Little do we know that these frameworks were created out of many years of experience, trying things this way and that way. When we pick and choose parts and pieces without the commensurate experience, we can end up with a monster.

Your situation is unique. However, knowledge and experience are required to understand how to alter and remix Agile frameworks to match your needs. Start with the known instructions first. Over time, change a little here and a little there and you will end up with something that serves you well.

Treats, Not Tricks

Scary things at this time of year are meant to be fun. Scary things in your company culture and processes are not fun any time of year. Seek to understand the problem you are solving and the tools available to you. And seek a guide, a “vampire hunter” to keep you safe from the monsters we sometimes accidentally create on our Agile journeys.

Happy Halloween!