Agile and the voodoo doll

I, Marijke, remember very well, my first introduction to scrum. Although I didn’t know it was called scrum back then. What I did know however was that it was standing in my way, making me wait and frustrating me. So I came quite a long way, as I am now writing a blog about agile adventures….

Back in 2013, I was product manager Cards. As a product manager, I was responsible for this debit card and everything that was even remotely related to it. That also includes… incidents. Whenever there is even a hunch of an incident, we get nervous. And what do we do when we get nervous? We turn to IT for rescue.

So, I had a potential incident at my hands. I received signals from colleagues that there might be an issue with my product which affected customers. The system that managed our debit cards was called “New Cards System,” which was sort of hilarious, since the system was built many years ago. And even that I didn’t know back then, as IT was never one of my interests. If anything, it was just there annoying me. The only thing I knew, in case of “anything” that might have to do with the system, then “call Leeuwarden”. The IT team that maintained his system was located there. I could always just call a guy and they would look into my question and magically solve it. They were my go-to guys.

But at this particular incident, I hit a wall. First via e-mail, then on the phone. I was suddenly not supposed to ask these explorative questions to the team, they were working on a “sprint.” A what now? And why is that my problem? How am I going to fix this potential issue now? I remember bargaining, negotiating and pleading. Completely frustrated I called my IT collegue “a bureaucratic nightmare.” I also remember the tone of a phone being slammed down after.

Ahum. That guy turned out to be Michel. And he was the “delegated product owner”(*) of the newly formed scrum team “House of Cards.” Only six months later, I became the business product owner of that team and Michel was my biggest friend, best colleague and trustee.

And the potential incident? Of course after he slammed the phone, Michel and is team, responsible professionals as they were, looked into it. In the meantime someone of the team was making a voodoo doll with my face on it. When Michel called me back with the results of their inquiry, he asked me to come to their stand-up that week. And that is when my love affair with agile started. Not because of Michel (although he is a really nice guy 😉 ). Because we grew to understand each other better (as business and IT) and came to communicate on a regular basis. How was I to know that Michels worst nightmare was to be called bureaucratic? And how was I to know I was acting like their cliché image of a “business bitch?” The weeks and months after, I went to Leeuwarden every week to be with the team. I found out that was way nicer and more effective to get the team to work on the – in my eyes – right stuff. And it also turned out the team was full of great individuals.

And the voodoo doll with my face on it? I hope they threw it out. Although I sometimes feel a sudden cramp in my back. Mostly when I am being a bit of a “business bitch.” So if they do still have it, I think I am ok with it, I need that probably.

(*) yes back then we used to work with business PO’s and delegated PO’s. We don’t do that anymore, although there are some exceptions to that rule.

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