Wave 2

Agile Antipatterns: A Guide to Traps, Tripwires, & Treachery

Session Leader Name: Adam Weisbart

Duration: 60 minutes

Audience Level: All levels can benefit.

Session Style: Workshop


Description of Session


Knowing the basics of being Agile is essential for any team member, but out in the trenches, a good Agilist must be ready to identify and deal with Agile Antipatterns on the fly to help his team and organization move forward.

What’s an Agile Antipattern? Something that at first blush may seem Agile and useful, but in practice is usually harmful to an agile initiative. It’s important to be able to sniff these out since they can damage your organization, and are often slippery to catch. Once they’re caught, what does one do with them? Don’t worry, we’ll come up with a plan together.

Through this interactive workshop, participants will gather a wealth of Agile Antipattern knowledge that will act as a guide for remedying these troubling but common problems in the field. We’ll use data collected from The Agile Antipatterns Project (http://AgileAntipatterns.com), and the real-world Antipatterns participants bring to the table. If you’re struggling with a problem in the field, there’s a very good chance you’ll leave with a game plan to address it.


Presentation Format


>>> Introduction

The presenter will describe what an Agile Antipattern is by way of a few real world examples, and suggest a method for devising a plan for remedying them. (See attached PDF for an example). He’ll explain the ground rules for the workshop.

>>> Name That Dysfunction

Participants will write down an agile antipattern they’re currently experiencing on a post-it. In the event a participant doesn’t have a current antipattern, she can write down one she’s experienced in the past, or one she think’s she’s likely to encounter down the road.

>>> Brainstorming

The participants will organize into teams of 5 to 9 people. Each team will be given a selection of unique Agile Antipattern cards. These playing cards have quotes like:

“My boss is on my team.”

“I was pulled off this iteration and put on an emergency project. Again.”

“We can’t start our work until we get sign-off on the spec.”

These quotes are the essence of common Agile Antipatterns and are meant to give teams the opportunity to discuss why they’re detrimental, how to counter them using agile principles, and to explore what dysfunction they might be covering up. Teams will review all the cards they’re handed, and select one to present to the other teams. The can also opt for addressing one of their team’s antipatterns from the Name That Dysfunction section.

>>> Team Share

Each team will share the Antipattern they selected, and discuss what solutions they brainstormed. Adam will facilitate in-depth conversations where needed.

>>> Closing

Participants will retrieve their post-its from the Name That Dysfunction step at the beginning of the session. It’s likely they’ll have discovered a solution to the issue during the workshop. However, if they haven’t they’ll be invited to spend the last few minutes of the session working with the other participants, or the facilitator, to come up with a actionable next steps to resolve the issue.


Session Leader's Background


Adam is a passionate Certified Scrum Trainer and Agile Coach based in San Francisco. He has created several training modules including Build Your Own Scrum which is used by trainers around the world to teach Scrum from the back of the room. He's the creator of the viral video "Sh*t Bad Scrum Masters Say", the baker of Retrospective Cookies, and author of Agile Antipatterns: The Scrum Master's Guide to Traps, Tripwires, & Treachery. When he's not teaching, he's likely blogging at http://weisbart.com (were you can find out more about his projects), or cycling some ridiculous distance on a hilly California road.


Session History


The Agile Antipatterns workshop has been used several times as part of Adam’s public and private Scrum trainings. It has also received a 5 out of 5 star rating by participants after Adam presented it at the Bay Area Agile Manager’s Support Group (event details and feedback: http://www.meetup.com/AgileManagers/events/29611701/)


Questions Answered By This Session


Participants will:

- Examine the Agile Manifesto and its principles, and how they can be used to ferret out dysfunction

- Investigate common Agile Antipatterns and how to defuse them in the field

- Listen to solutions other participants have created based on the agile principles and their real world experiences

- Plan the next steps for resolving the antipattern the participant is currently experiencing using knowledge gained in this session


Submitted by

Session Leader Name(s): Adam Weisbart

Proposed Duration: between 30 and 60 minutes

Stage: Accepted

Feedback Score

16 votes

Idea Details

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Similar Ideas [ 3 ]


  1. Status Changed from Active to Accepted
  2. Status Changed from In Review to Active
  3. Status Changed from Active to In Review
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  1. Comment
    Carlton Nettleton
    ( Moderator )

    I give this an 8 out of 10 (10 being perfect).

    I like that you have done this exercise before and I really like the detailed write up of the workshop. I like that this is very much hands-on and peer-to-peer learning. I like that I can see hints of Sharon Bowman's "Teaching From the Back of the Room".

    What would have made it perfect is that you edited it down a little. It feels completely full with no room for error. You have used the entire 60 minutes and one thing I know about teaching is that it NEVER goes to plan.

  2. Comment
    adam ( Idea Submitter )

    Hey Carlton,

    Thanks for the feedback -- I appreciate it.

    You're totally right about things never going as planned. I've taken that into account by adding slack to the sections. While the time appears to be full in my outline, there's plenty of wiggle room in each of the sections to deal with the unforeseen. I'm quite confident from my experience running this session that 60 minutes will give us plenty of time to get the most out of it.

    Thanks again!


  3. Comment

    Howdy from down under (@ScrumMasterNZ). I like this topic as we are going through - yet again - the two examples you give “I was pulled off this iteration and put on an emergency project. Again.” and “We can’t start our work until we get sign-off on the spec.”

    I would like to see something in here around how you are going to get the wider community of your business to come to the realization you are exhibiting an Anti-Pattern as that is the hardest bit, unveiling those guys eyes.

  4. Comment
    ( Moderator )

    Innovative topic, I love patterns AND anti-patterns, presenter is well-qualified.

  5. Comment

    I really like the use of patterns as memes for identifying and remedying dysfunction. I do worry that a 10 minute brainstorm would be insufficient to dig into a pattern sufficiently. I think deeper learning will happen more in the brainstorming than in the report back so I would consider adjusting the time allotments.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      Adam Weisbart

      Thanks for the feedback.

      Having run this session many times, I know that the 10 mins is sufficient. It should be noted that most of the deep conversation actually happens in the following section (Team Share), and that I've found giving teams longer in the brainstorm section ends up frustrating them more than helping them.

      All that said, I have a 90 minute version I can do if the organizers would prefer, which I'm also giving at Agile 2012 in Texas later this year.

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