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Agile Process: Looks Too Familiar to Me

In many companies throughout the world, Agile is becoming a way of operating, a way to act and something to be within the organization. For those companies, there are adaptations and permutations that seem inevitable for them as they adopt a new way of thinking and organizing around their work. However, there is a growing tendency to change the way that things are being done by using the same methods that have always been done. Seems a bit counterintuitive to say the least. Let’s explore a little bit further.

If a company has been trying to use Agile methods to improve their time to market, increase the quality of the product(s) they offer or get more value out of the right product(s), there are many things that can be done to achieve this. Some of the first things that come to mind are more transformational and basic than most people give credit. Starting from the very basic tenant of what problem is really being addressed is the key to change. Next, identifying why Agile or any other thing is the vehicle for transformation will help have buy-in across layers of your organization. However, at these key levels we cannot default to the normal decision-making processes of old to guide our path towards agility.

If we decide to become Agile because the hierarchal structure of our organization loosely maps to that of an Agile method we are researching, we are adapting for the wrong reason. It will most likely lead to a failed or prolonged implementation of trying to become Agile regardless of how much we are “doing Agile”. Change is part of the game and the empirical process is the agent providing motivation to see what we are learning from what we are doing. At the very least trying a pilot of being Agile would require the autonomy to a team, ScrumMaster and Product Owner to be successful in their realm. Only with that autonomy is success going to be realized sooner and with a more lasting impact. Without it, process becomes king and we don’t ever achieve the first aspect of the Agile Manifesto of valuing Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools. We need to find the simple principles and truths that we know work and get those perpetuated throughout the company. Trusting “the process” might work for the 76ers when talking about the draft selection process over the course of several years, but the process is not always the solution nor does it identify the real problems in need of being addressed. It requires work, discomfort and oftentimes courage to change ourselves and not just expect others to change.

I have seen many organizations over the years that have chosen to follow a specific method of Agile implementation. The rationale always interests me to know why that method becomes prescribed as THE way to do things. My preference is always going as light weight as possible so the organization learns what is truly important and what can be changed in the near-term and long-term. After using a lightweight approach such as Scrum, as closely as possible, only then does an organization learn what does work for them, how work is organized and prioritized, what cadence they need to have for any type of release structure and ultimately whether that is pleasing their clients or consumers. Using a heavy process because we see a high amount of regulation or current levels of management that are comfortable with it tends to restrict fast decision-making stifles change and innovation. If some level of discomfort does not exist, we are not truly trying to be Agile.

So, consider what problem you are really trying to address. Is it something that has to do with specific market drivers? If it is possible to identify what needs are really being unmet with your client base and what you want to do to address those needs, those are the problems to truly address. And when choosing a path forward, what is your rationale? Are you looking at a slow burn to change management? Are you expecting to be challenged to think and be different based on what different outcomes you are hoping to achieve? Don’t pick something because of comfort level to check of the box of doing Agile. Real transformational change happens as a result of truly becoming or being Agile.

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