Great Unexpectations – When pragmatism met evangelism

I’ve noted in a few of my posts that the company I work for is undergoing a transformation from waterfall to agile operations. The difficulties that lie within that transformation are, well, many. Some I knew were likely, other companies have suffered the same problems or very similar ones. Some are more context specific. That’s all cool. Stuff happens. It’s not so much the stuff but how you deal with it and move on.

One of the ways of dealing with the stuff was a request from my Manager to be an agile evangelist. Again, that’s cool. When I had a sniff that we were going to head down the agile path to development nirvana I was full bore in to learning about agile. Getting asked to sing loudly from a hymn book written by a number of people I really respect was no hardship. Hell I was being asked to recruit a choir to sing with me.

This week I had my mid year performance review. No big deal, casual chat, some observations, the usual sort of stuff. Considering the shake up the company has been through recently it was sort of remarkable we even held this ritual. In some ways it was actually one of the better ones I have had across my career. There was some feedback from my Manager, all of which was fair enough. Yes sometimes I jump over the top of people when they are talking (I have physical cues I use to tell myself to shut up but sometimes, well passion overrides manners and cues). I can cop that and I’ll continue to work on it.

The one bit of feedback that struck me the most was “you need to be more pragmatic”. The same guy, only months before had told me to be evangelical. Let me highlight via Dictionary.com (the highlighting is mine):

Evangelical: marked by ardent or zealous enthusiasm for a cause

Pragmatic: of or relating to a practical point of view or practical considerations

Seems to me there is a bit of clash if you are asking for a practical zealot. Reminds me of when I trained dogs. Occasionally a client would tell me they wanted a family friendly security dog. You would have tell them to make a choice or get two dogs because you are talking canine behavioral extremes (of course if you are in to dogs that will playfully tear your arm off then let’s talk).

So out if this I also have poor body language and might not always support the latest cause at 110%. I knew this of course, could hardly argue it, but, if you are going to ask for a particular behaviour be sure you know what you have ordered so you’re not surprised when it arrives (and the possible behavioural side effects). I’ve been involved in discussions of late that, quite frankly, shocked me with some the suggestions on how we should change. Much of it pointed to more process and more tick boxes. The agile evangelist was not happy. To be honest, this did lead to a great discussion (especially when I pointed out the variance in terms) and has largely allowed me to think about how to reconcile the situation. It’s also helped lessen an “inner turmoil”. I’ve always been pro company and supporting change. I’m not a company puppet but it makes more sense to try and influence good change than just deny change or flat out oppose it when it is going to happen anyway. But I’ve been in a place that has not been overly useful to me or the company. That stage has now ended. The evangelist has to be put away, for now anyway, and the pragmatist allowed to roam free. The evangelist won’t disappear for good, that’s not the way I operate. A holiday perhaps to recharge and refresh, waiting for the next opportunity. When it does come back it might be just a bit wiser for the experience and more valuable for it.

If anyone has had similar experiences I would really love to hear about them.

Thanks

Paul

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