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February 10, 2014

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I love the concept of "enabling local intelligence!" If a team wants to stop doing a practice, it's helpful to ask why--what problem is the team trying to solve? I agree that telling the team not to change the process and follow the rules is not necessarily the best advice for the team's context.

Hmm. Seems to me they are Responding to Change whether from within or discovered via Customer Collaboration. (Perhaps during a regular period of reflection and tuning.) This is producing Working Software with more concern for the Individuals that Interact during the process than for the process itself. You've given them the environment support they need to succeed, not a prescribed set of rules.

Why exactly don't you answer the "Is your team Agile" question with a resounding "YES!"? Not being in one of the popular frameworks or using one of the popular methodologies does not mean your team is not Agile. On the contrary, what I am reading about is a high-performing team that has reached the "Ri" level. Be proud of that! They are an Agile team, a true Agile team that has moved beyond the shackles of current trends. The next great methodology or framework could be borne out of the way they work today.

Agility is not a destination reached when certain criteria have been met. It is a Journey undertaken in pursuit of excellence. I believe that the further a team goes along that journey the less need they have for established methodologies and processes. In fact, forcing themselves to stick to the established might prevent them from getting even better, possibly discovering the next popular process.

Hi Adam,

Great observation, and yes, in my mind I see what we do as entirely agile too and the correct progression from basic agile usage. However the reason I respond “Kind of” when asked if what we do is agile is for two main reasons. The first is largely a function of who is asking it. If someone from, say, the PMO asks if we are doing agile and I say Yes, they often follow up with assumed Shu level application questions like can we attend your Standups, can we see your story point estimates. This leads to long or abandoned explanations of how actually we have also adopted some kanban concepts and now view granular estimates as lower value, bordering on waste activities and instead spend more time developing features via an iteration-less pull model. I know it is lazy of me, but answering “kind-of” or “mainly” and “would you like to hear more about it?” diffuses the questioning and allows me to explain if they are truly interested in how we work.

The second reason for not admitting this is purely agile is because people fixate on the process not the people. The reason my team is so effective is because they are very smart professionals with many years of experience in our domain and motivated. To be honest they would be successful if I tried to lead them in a waterfall approach (because they would discreetly manage risks and prototype approaches on the side). Replicating process is easy, replicating talent is not. The people make the project a success, if I said we are successful because we do agile, it would be short selling the talent of the team and setting up people for failure who want to replicate the approach.

I agree that the next great methodology or framework may be born out of how we are working, but the term agile now has a lot of associated baggage, so I blur my answer somewhat to open up the conversation to discussions around getting the best people you can and keeping them happy and engaged.

Thanks for your comment – I think this topic would be good material for a future post.

Regards
Mike

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