Agile helps you say no

At my son’s kindergarten, they have practiced saying “Stop, no” since he started there. When they don’t like what another child is doing they are supposed to say “Stop, no” and put up their hand like a stop sign. This is to give them a tool to handle conflicts without starting to fight and to teach them to set limits. It seems to work quite well there. It can cause some challenges at home though when I want to brush his teeth and he puts up his hand and clearly says “Stop, no”.

Many organizations don’t have a tool to say no. There are no ways to set limits and handle conflicts in a constructive way. When a manager or stakeholder comes with a request, we are supposed to say “yes, of course”. Even when we know it is not possible. And if we say it is not possible, then we are supposed to just make it happen. This causes a lot of stress, and it creates a culture of having many things ongoing instead of finishing things.

When you start with Agile you give people a tool to say no

The reason we limit the amount of work in progress in Kanban is to say no to new work until the things we are working on are finished.

The reason we have sprints in Scrum is to focus on and finish something that is truly valuable to the organization.

The reason we always want a prioritized backlog is to make it very clear to what we say not to, and what we should say yes to.

The reason we measure how much we produce is to show real data on what is possible.

The reason we measure lead time is to give stakeholders a good expectation on when something will be finished.

The reason many management teams are starting with Scrum or Kanban is to say no to firefighting and give themselves time to think and work strategically.

Agile is a tool to say no!

This might sound negative, but when you start saying no, you can say yes to the important things.