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Bob The Naked Agilist


Have I ever mentioned how much I hate interviews? I absolutely despise them. The average interview is like the worst kind of corporate speed dating. You know how it goes: What are your job qualifications? I like long walks on the beach, Scrum, and listening to Barry Manilow LPs. Seriously, the whole process only serves to dehumanize the participants, both the interviewers and the candidates. The interviewers, utterly devoid of any real information, struggle to obtain some small sliver of insight. The candidates struggle to make themselves as attractive as possible, similarly unaware of any real idea of what the company culture is like. It’s ridiculous.

So there I was in an interview. Things were going as usual. Just sort of stumbling along as they often do. I’m staring at a whiteboard while someone else is asking questions…or somebody is answering one…I can’t remember. Suddenly it occurs to me that we need a visit from Bob the Naked Agilist. So I get up and wander over to the whiteboard and draw this figure:


I call him Bob. Bob the Naked Agilist. No, don’t tell HR. Right now it’s just poor Bob there with no clothes. Just a poor unprotected scrum master with no tools to make his way in the world. The question is: what tools would you give Bob in order to make him a great scrum master? Maybe you’d give him a big pair of boots. You know, something to keep his feet firmly planted in reality. These are going to have to be some big shoes to provide a stable platform not only for him, but for his team as well. So let’s give him a pair right now:


What else would we give Bob? A telescope, so that he can see risks coming? Maybe a broom for sweeping obstacles out of the team’s path? How about a Japanese Katana for cutting the occasional Gordian Knot? Fireproof asbestos pants for taking the heat from project stakeholders right in the shorts? Let’s do it!


Now Bob is starting to look a little bit more interesting. The interview candidate is fully engaged, dressing up their proverbial project manager doll. Me? I’m doodling. And I’m thinking. I’m thinking it’s interesting what people come up with. I’m thinking that I’m learning a lot more than usual from an interview. I’m thinking I’m starting to enjoy myself a little (I love doodling). So after 10 minutes of back and forth play we have arrived at this version of Bob:


He’s quite a handsome devil now! Dashing! Adventurous! Bold! I’m thinking I kind of admire Bob. I’d like to be like Bob. And now I have just finished engaging in a playful game with the person who has come to us looking for a job. Now I have a wealth of information. Now I feel like I have come much closer to full engagement with this person.

I’m swiftly coming to the realization that there are a whole host of things I would rather do than use the traditional interview format (what I kindly refer to as “corporate water boarding”). Games seem like a good start in the right direction. Rather than trying to come up with a masterful set of interrogation questions, perhaps seeking engagement through a short game is a more productive tactic (and more enjoyable for all parties involved). I want an interview that feels alive, that engages people deeply, and that leaves people wanting more.

I know they can’t all be like that, but perhaps we can get closer. Try using Bob. Starting an interview with a naked guy certainly makes them more engaging.

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