Call to the Community; Invite Agile, not Inflict


My personal motive for attending Agile Coach Camp US 2016 was to improve my “soft side” coaching skills. The open space session that resonated most from the three day event was the one conducted by @zachbonaker and Michael Herman on the topic of inflicting vs. inviting Agile on those not yet to embrace it.

Take a second and reflect; are you inflicting Agile on others or inviting them to share the joyful experience with you?

Human nature tells us we have a tendency to resist something when it is pressed upon us (aka “inflicted”) . This is largely due to the feeling of losing the ability to control our own destiny. However, when invited, not forced, we tend to be more open to pursuing the opportunity because of curiosity, control, and sense of acceptance. A casual “invite” also provides the sense of safety to move at our own pace.

When we promote Agile, we use terms such as empowerment, autonomy, and innovation. IT folks seek this type of freedom their whole career. So why are so many of us, myself included, inflicting Agile on those that have yet to embrace it? Especially when history and human nature tells us that this approach will only lead to resistance.

Are we making the journey towards achieving the “mindset” even harder then it has to be? Are we getting in our own way as change agents?

After a long flight full of reflection, I am as guilty as anybody when it comes to inflicting agile. I need to adapt and prop the door open instead of pushing people through it. I challenge the coalition to do it the same. It will enable us to achieve our mission of improving the world of software development much sooner.

So that leads me to my request. Can we help one another in our community with “how” to employ this more diplomatic approach? What type of intentional practices should consciously of adopting in our everyday coaching techniques to invite agile instead of inflict? Thanks.


This could be a great thread to talk about ways to naturally get people to want to be agile instead of forcing it.


Thanks for blogging this. I suspect Invitation is getting lost in late-adopter, checklist-driven agile (can practitioners confirm this?)

Three of my fav resources to build a more curious, emergent and synergystic culture are: (with tips to find out more)

“opening” and “holding” space in all aspects of the work:
Book: The Tao of Holding Space (ebook, card deck) , and

Developing more skill in using generative questions:
My list of Powerful Questions resources:

Open Space unconferencing:
My OS resource list: and
My AgileCoachCamp unconference organizer cheatsheet:

There, that should keep you out of (or get you into? :slight_smile: trouble for a while … and always happy to offer tips, just drop me a note or book a chat on my website.

I look forward to seeing where these Coalition conversations lead us. It’s always better together, anyway :slight_smile:



Hi Troy. This reminds me of Fearless Journey game… another fav. It allows people to name obstacles without judgement, dares them to refocud on a big goal, and invites to play with new id3as of their choosing. It tends to shift them back into a “we can!” Mindset so much more powerfully than telling them “you can!” LOL

Community-created game to download in 6 languages!



I really like this topic for a slightly different reason… Sometimes, I think Agile enthusiasts also “inflict” Agile expertise on one another which can be really frustrating. With the exception of this Agile Uprising Coalition (which I find to be full of really high-quality and supportive exchanges), I typically refrain from posting comments about Agile articles because I don’t like it when people tell me I’m “doing it wrong” without first trying to understand the broader context in which I–and my team, my project, my organization–are operating.

For example, I am currently serving as a Scrum Master and Agile Coach for a project that has just 1 Development Team but multiple Product Owners. (I can already feel the “inflicting” comments coming: “You can only have one Product Owner! You’re doing Agile totally wrong!”) However, within the context of the overall program I am supporting and the way in which this product is being developed and delivered to its customers, this arrangement actually makes perfect sense and is working so far.

Regarding @mccallam2’s original post… It seems like the natural reaction (at least on the Internet) is to do something like say “That’s not how the Scrum Guide says you should do it! You’re doing it wrong!” (inflicting) instead of asking questions like “Can you tell me more about that arrangement? Is it working for you? What victories or challenges have you experienced?” (inviting). If you ask someone “Is it working for you?” and they say “OHMYGOSHNO!”, then that seems like a great starting point for a collaborative conversation.

“Invite, don’t inflict…” I love it!


If your organization has made a commitment to Scrum, I think it’s quite acceptable to inquire into the multiple-PO arrangement. After all, Ken and Jeff are explicit in noting all components of Scrum are essential for achieving the greatest results.

However, my tactics wouldn’t include, “you’re doing it wrong!” I might ask, “what’s working well?” and “what are the biggest challenges?” - your responses would dictate what curiosity follows.

If your organization isn’t committed to Scrum, instead learning about work through Agile principles, the question of multiple POs wouldn’t have occurred to me. My curiosity would probably be satisfied with just the question, “what’s working well?”


@matthewholtry agree that context is hugely important. I think many in the Agile community unfortunately don’t apply the Prime Directive to their posts on LinkedIn, etc. There is WAY too much bashing of ideas, practices, etc. without an appreciate of the context in which those things are happening. Agree with @zachbonaker about focusing on what is working well and what is not. In general, a solid coaching technique.


** First post here ** leaning interface :slight_smile:

I had a recent conversation with a colleague about having Scrum Masters, at a minimum, take NVC training. NVC has a coaching curriculum on promoting NVC and NVC values. although Rosenbergs principals are from the late 60s, they apply well today especially when facilitating impediments. NVC can even be extended to non verbal communication cues such as body language.

NVC also applies to Agile coaching as it is in line with the positive psychology school of thought.

I have caught myself at times of stress at home or when not feeling well, speaking too quickly and not being aware of trying to use NVC. It is at these moments that perhaps things can be misconstrued by your Agile teammates.

Succinct, NVC with positive psychology is key during the "forming, storming " phases of Agile team building.



Great post. Infliction may sometimes come from an ego running wild. Many people in our business are uncomfortable with being introduced to subject matter they’ unfamilar with, such as agile, so it takes a secure and experienced coach to inspire. Some people are just gifted with this. The key for me is to work with empathy in mind. I am currently working with an extremely fragile team dealing with having their baby outsourced. They’re now in run and maintain mode. All new dev goes overseas. I tread carefully. I check my ego at the door. I inspire by bringing group think to the table and not telling them what to do. Retros can really help with inspiration. Its the Ri phase that is hard to get to and maybe that is where we discover the mindstate of inspire…it comes out naturally.


“But it takes too long to establish context.”

Yes. It’s called community.

IMO we need to stop trying to “fix the internet” and have smaller, slower, deeper conversations with our neighbours. Be they geographic neighbours or distributed community.


You are raising a great point @mccallam2. Agile is often being imposed on people and often at a pace and in a way that ends up being counterproductive and detrimental to the desired business outcome that prompted its adotion in the first place.

In my experience, senior management play a crucial role in establishing the overall approach to adoption of agility in their organisation or team. If it is driven by the “By this arbitrary point in the next x months you need to be agile” approach, then, by definition, agile is being imposed on people. In such situations people start looking for the fastest and easiest way to be able to declare that they are “agile” or that they work in an agile way. And that’s motivated by a simple desire to comply with the management demand without having to do change much. This then leads to things like renaming roles without changing working practices, using ceremonies without understanding why, no real change in delivery cadence or quality, no understanding of value etc. It’s effectively a management focused paper exercise.

On the other hand, in some organisations no real change is possible unless some form of ‘target’ is defined. The larger the organisation, the stronger the inherent org inertia and the easier it is for people to quietly but stubbornly resist any deeper change. In such situations, at least initially, I find that one needs to ‘exploit’ the existing culture and use it as a vehicle to start embedding agility. This can be done by using the target driven culture to your advantage e.g. by defining set of good, hard-to-game metrics that are easily verifiable at scale and that make it hard for teams to become (superficially) ‘agile’. Over time, it is then possible to ‘wake up’ at least parts of the organisation, create opportunities for learning and reflection and start shifting the key elements of culture to a new direction - towards a culture that actually values Inviting Agile as opposed to Inflicting Agile.



totally agree that context takes time…I just don’t like all the “what were you thinking” or “that’s wrong” in many conversations on LinkedIn.