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Welcome to the dark side – we have tools!

02 Mar 2018 |

Welcome to the dark side – we have tools!

By Chardi Taylor  – Agile Consultant, IQ Business

“A fool with a tool is still a fool”, or so the saying goes… yet there is a smorgasbord of agile tools available in the market. The fact that new ones keep popping up and the existing ones are thriving must indicate the popularity of and distinct need for these tools.

However, often just saying the word “Jira” can strike fear in a developer’s core and make an agile coach’s heart sink right into their shoes! Are digital agile tools really that evil?

Agile tools were designed to assist agile teams, and even the Agile Manifesto value which states “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” does not state no tools or no processes are to be allowed.

The key here would be how the tool is used.

What are some of the benefits digital agile tools?

  • Reporting made easy
  • Prioritisation is simplified
  • Visibility
  • Easy electronic sharing of information to stakeholders outside the team
  • Linking of tasks
  • Addition of subtasks
  • Staying connected with accessible UIs – can use it at home or the office
  • Work well for remote or distributed teams

What are some of the pitfalls of digital agile tools?

  • Often used to micromanage the team
  • Information refrigerator
  • The tool ends up running the team instead of the team running the tool
  • Product Backlogs grow beyond the point where they can be managed effectively
  • Do not specifically encourage team collaboration
  • Too easy to assign work to a team member instead of them picking it up themselves

These pitfalls and reasons we don’t like digital tools are closely aligned to challenges faced in an organisation which is not addressing the dysfunctions in the organisation itself, or one that is simply not ready to make the necessary change to support and enable their teams to be agile. Often the key change that is required is an organisational culture change; much more challenging than installing a new tool and hoping it sorts out our problems for us…

If we are going to use a tool to reinforce old behaviours like “command and control”, these tools will always be seen as vehicles of dysfunction, but if we can put our heartfelt focus on making the changes required in organisations, and use a tool only where needed for additional support, these tools might just end up being true enablers of change.

It could well be a worthwhile step towards long-term sustainability, if, instead of pushing the use of a tool, we energise our teams to embody the values and principles, with any and all tools there to support their journey towards success.