As I sat down on my first Agile workshop I was sceptical if this was going to be another waste of time to try to engage us opposed to real value deliver.
When I hear we were doing a Paper Scissors tournament I knew I was right.
The brilliant Frank Amankwah who was leading the workshop asked for any people with project management and asked two of them to organise the contest as they saw it fit with the goal to have a final in 10 minutes.
It was easy and natural to them, they started by splitting the room in two and organise best agains best (most logical) in an almost orderly manner we came came 4 minutes outside the time between a little above 30 people.
Next we had no Product Managers, we would organise ourselves and the goal was that the same.
The result? We finished in 7 minutes and the level of noise and energy was totally different, we were pumped!!
First lessons, people will work quicker and happier when they are let to figure it out by themselves and love autonomy and games, welcome to Agile thinking.
What stroke me as surprising than was Agile isn’t about doing, it’s about being (like in meditation??) let me avoid the pitfall of sounding too mystical, it means you focus on people not on processes and products first, and in the word of one of the founders of the Agile Manifesto “And we really mean it”
People over process and tools
The Agile Manifesto was created in 2001 by developers for developers and organisations with the main focus to make customers and developers happier with the process and outcomes of product creation.
“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:”
The idea was to guide through 12 principles which would allow for better outcomes, but, it didn’t managed expectations; assumed everyone would understand what the required work was; didn’t validated the decision with the group; didn’t got a feedback loop, these are the most common but not only.
Methodologies appear to fill in the gaps such as Cleanroom; TSP; PSP; RAD; DSDM; MSF; SCRUM; Kanban; UP; XP; TDD; ATDD; BDD; FDD; DDD; MDD to which we sawn three emerge, SCRUM, Kanban and XP as the most commonly adopted.
So what is Agile? Agile is a mindset, it’s a mindset not just of the developers but of the organisation were these people are inserted. Decisions come from above and influenced from bellow.
Organisations want to adapt Agile because the intrinsict advantages of lower budget, less time, lower cost (maybe, depends on the nr of changes) and how well it responds to change opposed to other methodologies such as Waterfall.
So in practical terms, how can we achieve this?
Individual and Interactions, smaller teams (split the pizza) of cross-functioninal; semiautonomous; self-organising teams with the main focus of transforming ideas to value.
Teams have the skills to complete the work and are autonomous and empowered to decide the “how” and decide who does what.
This is where the serving leader comes in, he’s focused on removing blocks and helping his teams to deliver value.
Agile promotes leadership, serving leadership, it promotes leaders to grow teams in a supportive trusting and humane environment.
Collaborative, shared ownership, everyone stays informed (maximum bandwidth) and the success of the individual comes last to the success of the team.
Communication, decisions preferred method is consensus, gain everyones support to the ideas implementation even if not everyone is wild about the idea or drop it and start again, this can be a challenge specially if time presses on.
Start with the End in Mind, start with the “why” before the “what” and than you can decide how you are together going to achieve it. You can imagine how this can be a challenge for some organisations, be obsessed with the outcome and flexible with the journey to get to your outcome.
Defer Decisions to the Last Moment, dont make commitments earlier than you have to so you can make them better informed.
If your manager is someone that needs certainty and used to micromanage this will be really challenging, this is why applying tools and processes is the solution and it just fails or drags it’s feet.
Strive for Simplicity for decisions and doing work, this will allow you to move faster change faster and understand each other in the teams and customer better.
When Certainty is unjustified than strive for experimentation, fail fast and opt for learning.
Cadence, deliver value as frequently as desirable & possible from a technical and business point of view.
Don’t fall in the trap of quick and dirty get-it-out implementations – tomorrow objectives might not be the same so keep your self focussed on agility and flexibility to change and obsessed by your outcome flexible on the method.
Keep the work in a Shippable and deployable state, keep teams close to deliver value, the entire team, the teams results are more important than individual achievement and delight the customer first to avoid the pitfall of keeping everyone maximally busy but not advancing on the right direction.
Quality is crucial if you reduce value you amper everyones work, strive to excellence and quality of the teams work.
Feedback loops into everything, short but actionable, focus on continual learning about what shifts (customer, business, team, work,etc), strive to continuous improvement, ask yourselves “what can we do and be better”.
Back to the workshop, one of the last games we were on a team and we had to come up with a project and create a story, I was “volunteered” to become the leader and, failed terribly.
I let one of the teams member select the project and tell his story opposed to check and involve the entire team, trust and teamwork were ZERO and a close to mediocre outcome, a great personal lesson.
There are many reasons Agile should be applied and many reasons not, always always always put people first.
Make sure your organisation is really behind you from top level and don’t scramble in panic to old habits at the sign of trouble, there will be trouble because humans are resistant to change, make it sustainable and long term opposed to short term.
Select the principles and values that make sense to you and your team, make new ones and change them, experimentation pivot double down learn experiment are to be applied everywhere.
There will be organisations that this will be close to impossible, one of my colleagues still as meetings when something goes wrong and the meeting starts “who Am I firing today?” and looks at him (he’s still there) in such organisations were fear reins Agile will fail.