Agile Brambles

In every domain there are topics whose introduction often signals the end of rational discussion. The Agile domain is no different. We call these kinds of topics brambles.

Brambles are sticky topics to navigate. You want to move people forward “rationally” and yet they can become so entangled by position statements — the thorns of the bramble — that the organization as a whole fails to learn.

These are important topics. “Agreeing to disagree” is just avoiding the issue. We need to recognize when a conversation is in the brambles and offer constructive paths out of the entrenched positions. And we need to recognize when the conversation is beginning to bear fruit. We know we’re leaving the bramble and headed for real dialogue when we see people move…

  • from Crusade to Conversations
  • from Debate to Dialogue
  • from Entrenched to Exploring
  • from Wrath to Work

The Brambles Pattern is a collection of patterns for you to recognize and intervene when your team is in a bramble. Examine any of the brambles here — all follow this pattern.


If you’re in this Bramble…

  • A topic that often shuts down dialogue
  • You’ll notice people tend to quickly take sides

…you might hear these Thorns.

  • “Sound bites” that signal entrenchment
  • Saying these just might make things worse!

Try some different Paths…

  • Interventions you can share aloud (or think to yourself)
  • Be disruptive to clashes, be conducive to curiosity

…until you hear some Fruits.

  • Indicators of a shift toward true dialogue
  • You’ll notice people starting  to explore middle ground


Our goal is not to try and find optimal “solutions” for any of these topics — those are context-sensitive to the organizations. We’re also not trying to change people’s minds from their positions. Frankly, there are bigger fish to fry.

We’re interested in helping the world of business as supported by the creation of software. To that end, we want people to find paths out of the brambles to the real possibilities they may have afforded to them.

People stay stuck in brambles because of binary thinking. Join us in opening up the possibilities of #NoBinary thinking. As you discover contentious brambles and thorns that waste time and energy (or paths that guide conversation to fruitful dialogue!) we invite you to share.

Engage here on and share on social media with the #NoBinary tag.

— Derek & Paul