True Agile stories : Chris, the Tester

27 Apr, 2011
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In Agile, we prefer Individuals over Processes and Tools. However, we hardly ever hear about these individuals, as we tend to focus on teams. In my daily life as an Agile coach, I see the effects Agile has on individuals, how they love it or hate it, resist or adopt, struggle or embrace.
I want to blog about these individuals who are the key to any Agile success. My tales are true stories of real people. I have only changed their names and some small facts to preserve their privacy.
This blog is about Chris, a tester whose resistance to Agile was very big. Read what he went through, and be surprised by the end of this story.
Chris was a tester at a large, international company. He was 49 years old, lived close to the company and had been working there for over 20 years.  Every morning, Chris rode his bike to the office, where he arrived before 8 am. He’d politely greet his colleagues, walked into the room that he shared with one other person, and started testing.
Chris was a great tester and was well respected in the company. He knew the company’s old legacy systems inside out. He was the number one bug-killer; he would find the bugs no one else could find.
Chris was a very quiet man. He did not talk much. At noon, he took his lunch out of his bag and ate his sandwiches while he continued working. Chris did not like social get-togethers and tried to avoid all birthday celebrations and project parties in the office.
Then I joined the company to help them with an Agile Adoption program. Agile soon was rolled out throughout the entire development department and Chris’ life changed completely. He became a member of a cross functional team. He moved from his 2-person room into a huge open space where several Agile teams were located.  He had to attend meetings, share information, and work together with other testers, developers and analysts.
In the beginning, Chris did not like it.  At all. But being the nice, polite man he was, he complied and did not speak up very much. But he suffered in silence.
To increase his knowledge en skills, Chris got trained in Scrum, teamwork, and Agile testing. To remove his fears and resistance, we had many good talks together. Chris always remained respectful and pleasant, and I started to really like him.  I figured that he just needed some more time to get used to the new situation.
After the first couple of sprints, Chris’ team started to be successful. They produced quality code, their product owner was happy and they had a nice team atmosphere. I moved on to coach other teams.
I did not speak to Chris for a while, but after a few months I bumped into him. He had by then become an active and appreciated member of his team.  He still was  not a man of many words, but his input at the Agile meetings was very valuable. His team members knew they could always ask him for help. And he even attended all the team’s celebrations and events.
I was so happy to see this. I gave him a big smile and said: “Well, Chris, I am so happy to see you are doing so well in Agile. I bet you like it now, don’t you?”
Then he looked at me with his friendly, blue eyes and said softly: “You know Nicole, I really, really hate Agile.”  And with a sad little smile he turned around and walked away, leaving me speechless.
This story shows that not every individual is happy in an Agile situation. However, we don’t want to loose valuable employees like Chris. And we don’t want to make them miserable till their retirement, either. What should an Agile coach, or an Agile company, do to accommodate people like Chris?


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