Be Happy to Fail

Apr 20 2011

Be Happy to Fail - a statement that sounds like heresy and may ruffle a few feathers. But in Agile, we say this is good.

The question then comes is why Agile preaches such contrarian thoughts. People pay good money to developers and they should always be motivated to make each sprint successful.

Let me start by giving an example - A team is under high pressure to make each sprint demo successful. Two days before the demo they realize that a lot of work needs to be done. Since, failing the demo is not an option, the team works late nights and gets the job done. The demo is then successful and the management applauds the team and since they met the Sprint Goals everyone picks up the same amount of work again coz hey the velocity is good and they did all the work. So in the next sprint the same thing happens all over again and the team works overtime. Over a period of 2 months the team is exhausted, they think the project is a burden and Agile sucks and its just another tool for the management to add pressure on to them and a few team members plan to leave, the rest are just happy coding so that the demo is successful. The code quality and motivation goes down the hill from here.

This is exactly the situation we should try and avoid. The Scrum Master in the team above should have said - No problem guys, if we cannot finish the work before the demo, so be it. We tried our best and we'll adjust our velocity from now on. Simple. One demo fails but the next demo is successful and most importantly the team is happy.

On of the main things I say is - Happy teams are performing teams. When I delivered my last project as a Scrum Master before time and within budget, my customer said how did you do it. I just said I had a great team and I all I did was to keep them happy (which of course included pushing them out of office after 8 hrs of work).

I think these are the finer difference between Following Agile and Being Agile. A lot of times we associate ceremony around Agile, have this meeting and that and oh! oh! the demo should never fail. All I say is relax! The demo is not the end of the world. Just keep giving it your best, work happily and the rest will take care of itself.