There are no experts

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In your situation, you will not find a magic bullet. No panaceas exist. You will find No experts here.

Shock! Horror!

There are people with experience and ability. There are people worth listening to, but there are no experts in your current situation. The person who knows the intricacies of what you face is you.

We are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world – Tyler Durden

I feel all the time that I am nobody special. Like every other developer I have ever met, I struggle with imposter syndrome. In my role as team lead, I don’t have all the answers. I am fortunate for the people in my life that lend me strength, but I come back to the fact all the time that I am human and I do make mistakes.

It is so easy to struggle with this. People are hard and situations are often difficult with no real 100% wins. The glib one-liners of the “experts” can sound so right, but they can be so hard to implement.

The frameworks that look so perfect on the page never translate perfectly to the situation your are in. It is the reason a ridiculous number of teams profess to practice scrum when many of that number have some of the ceremonies and little of the spirit.

There is no justice, there is just us. – Death (Discworld)

So, what do we do when there are no experts? Where do we turn? What do we do?

Here are some things I try to live by that help me continue moving forward.

Never start a sentence with “Somebody should…”

The phrase ‘Someone ought to do something’ was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it never added the rider ‘and that someone is me’ – Terry Pratchett

When I read this quote for the first time it resonated so strongly with me. I still try to live by this today. Whenever I feel the words bubbling up, I know I have a decision. Do I have an action I can take or am I just complaining? If the latter, I pivot. I choose the reaction. It might be to remain silent, but the mere act of evaluation means I can choose. I can do something constructive with the though.

This doesn’t mean you must do the something yourself though. The words, “Can you …?” or “I need help” are valid here. Asking someone in a position with the authority to enact the change is also a valid response.

Seek good counsel

Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. – Proverbs 12:14

I don’t have all the answers, and unless you are a messiah of some kind neither do you. When you don’t know ask.

As said before, there are no experts in your situation. There are people who have walked or witnessed similar paths. Listen from them, learn from them and grow.

Seek multiple sources of truth, but don’t get lost in advice. Give yourself the confidence to move on and do so. Take what fits your situation best and make it your own way.

Where can you look for help? Your immediate workplace, your networks, at meetups or online.

Reach out to authors of articles that speak to your situation, I have found the agile community open and incredibly generous and kind. Don’t presume to expect a response, but you might be surprised.

You can also join amazing communities such as Agile Uprising’s Coalition. I am so grateful places like this exist.

If you lack information get some

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. – Lewis Carroll

Not having sufficient information available to decide is like walking with welding glasses on. You can get to where you are going, but you may end up with some bruises along the way.

If you don’t know the best route do something to counteract it. If you are missing technical know-how break out a spike and find out. Not sure what would be best for customers go on a Gemba Walk and talk to the people affected by the decision. If you have some idea about what might work, try an experiment. Implement the simplest experiment you can and learn about the problem and make choices based on the feedback. Never be afraid of getting a little more information.

When the choices are even move

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. – Rush

It can often feel like all sides are completely even. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis.  You will still need to move. Procrastination will potentially cost you more than deciding. I struggle with this.

Cory Bryan of Deliver It Cast suggests that when all things are equal and one takes less time. Go with it.

If the estimated implementation time is equal another consideration is reversibility. Build whichever choice is simplest to reverse.

Finally, if the trade-offs seem equal and there is no clear choice on any metric. I can’t find the article, but the Harvard Business Review suggested choosing to be a “choice a” person or a “choice b” person and owning it. I like it.

Remember it isn’t set in stone. If you get more information later, you can pivot and move to the best solution. Moving and getting feedback is vastly better than letting the market slide by you.

Be prepared to suck and make mistakes

For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good. – Ira Glass

When we do things for the first time, they may not work out. It happens with creative work as well as leadership. As you develop you will get better at making better decisions and working with those around you.

You have ideas in your head of how things “should go”.  You may even have a few strategies in place to get through the issues you face. It’s ok if it doesn’t work out. Learn, grow and move forward. Push through for the rewards.

In the end, it rarely matters if you were right or wrong, it matters that you moved at all.

There are no experts, but you also don’t need to travel alone. Join us on the coalition and let’s do this little thing called agile together and better every day.

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Brad Stokes

I am at heart a developer. I've been participating in an agile environment for a little over a year and a half. I've done waterfall and never want to return. I'm always good for a chat and willing to look at the agile world with openness and honesty.

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