Don’t Replace Your Thinking with Checklists

Yes , the title of this article uses a negative format and I completely assume it. Because it is,  first of all,  a “stop the massacre” cry. Stop the massacre of trying to melt people brains,  and pour it into compliance molds.

Michael Ballé ,  an inspiring Lean  expert,  said: “search for people involvement not for people compliance” .  I dream to change the world so this  becomes  a reality.

Image from “Spread Science” Blog 


(My) Agile Thinking Manifesto 


The thoughtful ideas of Michael Ballé just mentioned above,  gave me the incentive to seek my personal reference of principles that would make  Agile Transformation sustainable by people’s own free will and active involvement.  The focus on providing sets of checklists  was identified by Jean Tabaka‘ as one of Agile implementations  causes of failure

These two,  and my Agile adventures-experience,  gave me the idea of ( My) Agile Thinking Manifesto. The first principle lyes here :



Leverage people intelligence over checklists


When starting an Agile Implementation initiative,  one of the common requirement is a checklist of “something” (practices, IT tools, artifacts, virtues of the best Agile performer and so on) . Execution   of each element on that list is expected to ensure  “better than the best” organizations.  This  mindset comes from decades of “command and control” model , where some smart responsible people ( in charge of very important stuff) need to check if some other – immature by default – people,  “behave themselves” properly.

It is difficult both sides :  either from a management perspective where checking is the essence of control of compliance, or from teams members that were used to be told “how to do stuff” and wait “for the receipt” ( checklist) .


By the way , if you ever experienced cooking using a receipt, I wonder if the information that is in the receipt was enough for you to make great food ; just followed instructions , nothing more nothing less.

The reality of  trenches  shows that filling compliance criteria in  checklists does not  make great Agile organizations.


As cooking receipts, checklists are useful. You cannot ride a bike if you don’t have a bike.  I believe more in the checklists that teams build for themselves,  using their experience. I love my bike because I know how to handle it. I’ll do great cakes because I know how  a good composition and a good baked cake should look like

Looking for checklist compliance is a “termination short-termism” attitude (Michael Ballé, The Lean Manager”) . Checklist compliance lasts the time  of checking. People involvement  lasts  the time they will be proud of what they are doing.

As long as people are not involved to try things and challenge them afterwards ,  there is no success and no performance. And most of all, no hope.


Preserve hope,  do not to give-up your intelligence  for checklist compliance!



Disclaimer and Invitation


This “just another manifesto” about Agile mindset will not be  “just another checklist” that proclaims to be the “ultimate truth” about thinking . Nevertheless, if anyone want to step-in and contribute to it , you are more than welcomed!


About ojuncu

Après une expérience de plus de 15 ans le développement logiciel et le management des équipes IT (de l’architecture applicative chez General Electric à la tête de la direction informatique d’Eurosport) , Oana a arrêté son choix sur les démarches Agile, qu’elle pense être l’approche la plus adaptée pour les organisation du 21ème siècle, focalisées sur la réalisation produits de qualité, pertinents pour leur clients des produits et disponibles au plus vite, en s’appuyant sur des équipes épanouies. Oana intervient à la fois comme catalyseur de Transformation Agile, en aidant les organisation ( du coeur de métier au développement et services support ) à adopter Agile, et comme coach et/ou formateur Agile et Lean Coach sur le terrain des équipes projet. Son credo est l’évolution durable via le soutien de la collaboration et le bénéfice de l’intelligence collective : un résultant remarquable ne peut être créé qu’avec des contributeurs volontaires .Dans le même esprit du soutien de la “connaissance connectée, créatrice de valeur”, et partage des connaissances, Oana participe activement dans la communauté Agile française et internationale; Elle est intervenue comme orateur dans plusieurs conférences comme XP2012, Agile Tour, ALE, et comme organisateur actif des évènements Agile au niveau européen
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