As an agile coach, you're bound to encounter a few skeptics in the teams and organisations you work with. Although sometimes it seems that skeptics are doomsayers bringing a cloud of negativity to the team and it's tough to see ideas shot down before they've been given a chance. In my experience, skeptics are to be embraced.

I've been coaching agile teams for a few years and had plenty of exposure to naysayers and cynics. What has surprised me is how many of former skeptics are now agile advocates. I started my own agile jouney as a skeptic about XP but I was curious enough to give it a try. I remember also when I first worked with Monica, she was a program manager who seemed determined to stop her team get even a toe-hold to try agile practices like Test-driven Development. Since then she's brought me in to coach her teams in two different media organisations and she now works for an agile consultancy. I have a bunch of similar stories about former agile skeptics so I thought I'd write up what I do when I meet an agile skeptic.

The first thing to remember about a skeptic is that they are at least giving your proposals some serious consideration. They are thinking about whatever is being put forward otherwise they wouldn't be able to come up with any arguments against change. Try to accept that most skeptics care about many of the same things as you do. They want to be able to do a quality job and not to waste time. However, they have to yet to be persuaded that being "agile" helps and likely fear that change will make things worse.

Moreover, they're likely to have real experience to share that underpins their position. To get a skeptic on your side, you have to listen to them and hear their concerns. You are likely to learn something useful by working through the obstacles they see. You can work with them to improve your approach. There may be simple tweaks you can make to avoid the pitfalls that they raise and allay their fears.

In their book, "Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas", Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Manns include the Champion Skeptic pattern. They advise that you actively seek a skeptic to help sharpen your thinking because skeptics can help you find weak parts of your change message.

So next time you find yourself worrying that a skeptic on the team is out to burst your agile bubble, pause and take time to listen to their concerns. You might learn something!