Recently I've had an increase in the number of change managers coming to see me for stress and anxiety problems. That in itself is not unusual. Having been a PrInCE2 Project Manager, and a Quality, Health & Safety Manager in the UK NHS and here in Wellington Hospitals, I know just how stressful change management can be for all concerned.
What is unusual is the high proportion of these change managers who are also software developers, and working at organisations which are "doing" Agile (more about that critical "doing" bit later)
Being a martial artist, I understand the importance of knowing my enemy, and as a therapist my enemy is stress and all its potential causes. So I wanted to learn more about Agile, and to see for myself just what it is, so as begin to understand where the process exposes its users to stress. With that in mind, I was very pleased when Agile Toastmasters, Wellington, hosted their Agile & Scrum: Beyond Technology workshop on Saturday 23rd February 2019. I decided to go along and learn more about this modern methodology for software development, and to see for myself.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the Agile & Scrum: Beyond Technology Workshop. Also, I could pinpoint why Agile SHOULD (if implemented properly) actually reduce stress, rather than increase it. More than that, I can even see how it can be applied to Hypnotherapy, NLP, Coaching & SleepTalk
Now that's a niche that appeals, big time!
Definitions of agile
The adjective, agile, means "able to move quickly and easily" (Wikipedia)
In relation to the methodology, Agile means "relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans"
According to Wikipedia, "Agile software development is an approach to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customer/end user"
Casting a behaviourist eye over Agile & Scrum: Beyond Technology
Traditional software development involves the old, familiar story of processes and tools, comprehensive documentation, contract negotiation and making and following a plan. However, in Agile, these old school aspects take a back seat to the more important aspects of considering individuals and interactions, delivering the working product incrementally, with customer collaboration and responding to change, all within a transparent working environment. On first seeing this, my thoughts were that "being" Agile is akin to applying Emotional Intelligence principles to software development, so it SHOULD be less less stressful. But that's also when I realised why the stress is actually there
During the workshop it became apparent, to me at least, that some organisation are "doing" Agile, but not actually "being" Agile. Doing Agile and being Agile are very different. Going through the motions of introducing Agile into an organisation from the top down, assigning work to the middle and lower tiers of the organisation and having Scrums (more in a moment) is "doing" Agile, and maybe fulfilling an old fashioned "tick the boxes" mindset. On the other hand, fully embracing Agile at every level of the organisation, abandoning outdated project management and recruitment processes and making a commitment to "being" Agile is very different. I found the answer to my puzzle. Doing Agile when you actually should be Being Agile is the stressor. Or, as they say in NLP, the map (Doing Agile) is not the territory (Being Agile) Hence, stress.
Now the good news. Here's a thought for you...
When you look beyond technology, you realise that thoughts are simply the software of the mind!
It's true. If my computer had a software problem I would take it along to my local computer therapist (Erm, I mean Software Analyst) who would cut, copy and paste html code so that it worked the way I wanted it to again. Well, whether you visit me for the Virtual Gastric Band Weight Loss Process, Hypnotherapy, Life Coaching, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Tai Chi or the Goulding SleepTalk Process, I help your mind and body to work the way you want them to, by using a cut, copy and paste of your thought processes. In this way, the thought process which once made you a smoker can be deleted, and a new process can be designed which empowers you to be a non-smoker, and so on.
Agile works by delivering change incrementally, thinking differently, considering outcome over process and building on positive traits and skills. This is familiar ground for an experienced therapist or coach!
It's also faster, cheaper, personalised and cuts out any unnecessary work.
Work smarter, not harder
What is this Scrum thingy, and how can a therapist or coach use it?
Scrum is founded upon empirical process control theory. This means that all knowledge is based upon information derived from the senses. Then, through a cycle of transparency, inspection and adaptation the Scrum Master will guide the Scrum Team from conception to conclusion of the desired outcome. That outcome is derived when we invest in the user's stories
Therapists also utilise the users (Clients) stories to empower change, so this fits nicely with therapy and coaching too
Being Agile is a state of full commitment which I believe will lead to a lower stress working environment
Doing Agile is not fully investing and the dichotomy will, I believe, increase workplace stress
Agile can become as applicable to developing the software of the mind as it is to developing the software within our machines, and so is a potential Coaching, NLP and Hypnotherapy niche
Scrum (when "being" Agile) has the potential to simplify change, reduce unnecessary work, increases job satisfaction and so reduce stress
Scrum (when "doing" Agile) is just another box ticking process to appease the purse-string holders, and so is likely to be perceived negatively, and could result in increased workplace stress, in my opinion
To clarify - All the above are my own opinions, based upon what I saw and heard at the workshop
Andrew Hardwick CHt., PNLP, RGN, RMN
Founder: Andrew Hardwick Hypnotherapy, Hutt Hypnosis and Not Strictly Tai Chi
24 Feb 19