Writing or receiving a break-up letter can be fairly daunting or shattering, depending on which end of the letter your name appears. That letter puts a pretty hard stop to a relationship. It’s communicating detachment and finality. It can create a lot of pain whether intended or not. In contrast, a love letter is uplifting. The endorphins fly! Someone is revealing their attraction for you, and their hopes and wishes for a future with you.
Now, there is a reason I have these letters on my mind. I’ve just returned from Rally’s Agile Leadership Forum - a great gathering of people eager to lead successful Agile transitions in their organizations. The event included a lively presentation from Forrester Research's Senior Analyst Dave West: “Agile Adoption – Research Findings on the Adoption of Agile.” (You can find some of Dave's data in the "Forrester Wave: Agile Development Management Tools, Q2 2010"). We also enjoyed an inspirational talk from our CTO Ryan Martens, called “Moving Agile Beyond Software.” These great presentations were followed by breakout sessions and a panel discussion about Agile challenges. Now, how to end the event?
As emcee of the forum, I not only kicked off the event, but it was my job to bring closure to the gathering as well. How can we have people walk away with thoughts about Agile? Why are they interested in the first place, and where do their concerns lie? I was inspired by a video I recently saw about “breakup letters.” The Breakup Letter is a design research tool that Smart Design uses to understand the emotional connection between people and their products, services, and experiences. One person broke up with his cell phone, another, her single-cup coffee maker.
Now, just how does this relate to the Agile Leadership Forum? I liked the concept of the breakup letter, but I decided to entirely flip the idea and close the event by asking everyone to write love letters instead. In the spirit of Cyrano de Bergerac, I asked each table of participants to work together in crafting a “Dear Agile” letter. In this letter, they were to convey their attraction to Agile. And, they were to reveal where they were concerned about as well. All letters were to be from a secret admirer :-)
Once the groups began to read their letters, I knew we were on to something. Though I don’t have the reading of the letters on video, here are a few examples of our “Dear Agile” love letters.
Run this exercise in your own group to find out what the Agile "lure" looks like and also what the "turn-offs" might be.
Breathlessly awaiting your comments,
p.s. If you want to read some of the transcribed texts of the love letters, read on!
I have admired you from a distance for some time. Waterfall and I are in the process of an ugly breakup. There is so much about you I need to know. My friend says great things about you. You are so simple and straightforward-- no mind games like Waterfall.
This won't be simple. Waterfall still has clothes at my place. My Facebook status is confused.
In the relationship as we get to know one another, we will have to know each other carefully-- co-locating right away? Are we sprinting too fast?
Be gentle with me.
Looking forward to a rapidly developing future.
I love you because you offer quick cycles, better quality, and better teamwork. From the first time I saw you, I thought I could begin saving money and add business value.
But, fair Agile, you are not so simple. I’ve heard you are a micro-manager. I don’t totally understand you. Some people are confused by you. On the surface, you sound so perfect and simple, but the more I get to know you the more questions I have.
But, among all my choices, I choose you. You promote collaboration, and allow me to turn things around quickly. You’ve helped me trim weight and stay lean. Don’t disappointment me, I trust you!
With all my love,
I loved you from the first moment I saw you, I loved your fast, speedy releases and that you don’t come with a lot of baggage or documentation. You’re simple and down to earth. You are a great communicator. I always know where you are and my friends love you, too.
I am, however, a bit concerned that not everyone accepts our relationship. I am worried that as my job continually grows and my needs scale up, whether you can handle the increasing challenges. And I’m concerned whether I can afford you… Our relationship and your attachments are what intrigue me the most.
Looking forward to spending more time with you and getting to know you better.
- Your secret admirer
We love you, we think you are awesome – for the following (bulleted) reasons:
- Agile accepts changes and encourages frequent changes
- Agile can start implementation before full requirements are known.
We do however have a few problems with you agile –
- Handling cultural change in the organization
- Does not solve all our issues
- Makes distributed teams harder to work with
- Your secret admirer
Besides blogging and consulting with Rally clients worldwide, I've also authored a book Collaboration Explained: Facilitation Skills for Software Product Leaders, Addison-Wesley 2006.
I graduated Magna Cum Laude and as a University Scholar from the University of Missouri. I hold a Masters in French Literature from Michigan State University and a Masters in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University. When I'm not on the road speaking and coaching about Agile and Lean, you can find me in beautiful Boulder, CO.
Jean Tabaka is a Certified ScrumMaster and Practitioner, a Certified Scrum Trainer, and a Certified Professional Facilitator.
You can read Jean's blog posts at the Agile Blog.