My Agile Life: Trust

(This column is posted at, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

More on my use of “Agile” and Scrum in my life! This one actually gets into my writing – and someone else’s writing.  And work.  Let’s get to it.

So last week I wrote about how the Second Agile Principle helped me deal with changes to my book.  Short form, I learned how to better embrace change and my writing is better for it (despite my resistance).

This got my friend Serdar thinking about his next book, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, and he did his own post on change.  Here’s where he hits on something very important to Agile – personal and professional:

To wit: At one point when writing Flight of the Vajra — in the first draft, mind you — I abandoned several thousand words and backed up a fair distance in the story so that I could explore what seemed a far more fruitful plotline than the one I had cul-de-sac’d in. Better to turn around than to keep fighting against odds I hadn’t a chance of bucking. It meant losing several days worth of work, but when you put faith in the process rather than the resulting artifacts, those hard decisions aren’t so hard anymore.

Agile relies on a lot of trust.  Without trust, Agile falls apart (which I’ve seen plenty of times).  Think about it:

  • You have to trust your Product Owner that they know what they’re doing with their directions.
  • You have to trust your teammates to do their work.
  • You have to trust the Scrum Master to have your back.
  • You have to trust the processes to help you get the job done.
  • You have to trust yourself to do things right.

In personal agile it’s the same thing.  You have to trust yourself, build processes you trust, and keep improving things so you trust they get better.  Personal agile like I use will very quickly show you places in your mind where you don’t trust yourself.

But here’s the funny thing – you trust a lot of things.  But you don’t trust the product or even the product backlog as some kind of perfect result or guide.  Serdar rightly says the artifacts of writing aren’t to be trusted, and I’d add even the artifacts that lead to writing – or any other actions – aren’t to be trusted.  Be it plans for software or a book, they will change.

In fact, trusting your current plans on anything is going to trap you.  Change is inevitable.  The most trustworthy plan will fall apart because the world shifted around it.

Instead you have to trust the processes that keep you going forward. Your sprint standups, backlog planning, the act of writing or coding or whatever.  You trust in them to do good work, get feedback, and set direction.  Good direction – in the forms of backlogs, plans, user stories, etc. – is the result of trustworthy people and processes.  But it is not as important – or as reliable – as they are.

It’s not the map, it’s the confidence of the person giving you directions to help you get to your destination.

In your life, in your own projects, in your Agile (at home and at work) – are you trusting the people and the methods?  Can you?

If not, my guess is you’re none too happy.

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve