What’s your “Red Stapler”?

In the movie Office Space, the character Milton becomes so enamored with his ‘red stapler,’ that when he is deprived of his cherished possession, he follows through on his threat to “burn things” – which is this case was the office building where he worked.

For Milton he let his red stapler become synonymous with his self-worth as the only thing of value he had left after all of his job functions, and eventually his paycheck, were taken away from him.

I have often used the red stapler story and analogy when delivering Agile training to describe those remnants of traditional management practice that many people want to hang onto – even when it is clear they are no longer relevant or useful, or that in many cases they are an impediment to their ability to fully embracing Agile principles and practices. At worse, our red staplers can be so destructive to a team that it can lead them to abandoning Agile practices altogether.

For many project managers and PMO’s, their red stapler can be their project management deliverables. While they may say they are doing Agile Project Management or have created an Agile PMO, many of them in fact have a hard time letting go of traditional deliverables, planning techniques, practices such as status reporting, or metrics that don’t reflect or support Agile thinking and delivery, to name a few.

I have worked with some teams who take a proactive approach to rooting out their red staplers. I have seen other teams who don’t understand the issue, and don’t see the destructive aspects of hanging on to them.

If you are going to truly make the transition to Agile you need to figure out where your red staplers are hiding and root them out.

What do you think? Do you have your own “red stapler” which you are finding hard to let go?

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