Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Doing Agile versus being agile.

Ask someone who is talking about Agile as to what are they trying to accomplish by "doing Agile". They only seem to have "motives", they do not seem to have "goals". If they were trying to achieve something by being agile, they would be more focused and be able to figure out how to use agile concepts to their advantage in accomplishing their goals quickly.

Being agile is a default start-up culture. More often than not, larger enterprises are more comfortable making a mockery of it and are unable to figure out the common sense behind agile.

Agile concepts tell us how to beat complexity, unpredictability, volatility and risks in software development, in an imperfect world. The agile strategies are very straightforward :

1. Increase Employee Engagement: so that we are able to create an environment of trust and empowerment, so that people enjoy what they do and therefore increase their "productivity" in whatever they do. This this the theory of what is called "positive psychology" , "happiness advantage" or "flow". It is like a "commando culture", who are willing to risk their lives for accomplishing their goals.

2. Accelerate Learning : while working in an imperfect world, we need to learn to build our capabilities fast, to do the right things right in a given context. We need to therefore learn to manage our learning, so that it happens quickly. Collaboration, the PDCA loop, Retrospectives and Fast Feedback are key to fast learning. This should result in a true Inspect-Adapt culture working in an imperfect world.

3. Incremental Innovation: Accelerated learning should result in enhanced capability that enables us to cause continuous improvements to the ways we do what we do, by learning and discovering newer and better ways to do the right things right the first time.

4. Increase Speed: All the above should enable us to increase our speed of continuous delivery of value to our customers, thereby increasing the ROI of our work. We also on a continuous basis learn to identify and eliminate waste to prevent us from slowing down.

As far as Agile is concerned, if we see the above results in a project endevour, they would surely be harnessing agile concepts to their advantage. If not they would be doing Agile as a ritual, a dogma process, without knowing why they do, what they do, the way they do it. 

That's the unfortunate part when instead of being agile, they are doing Agile.