Monday, November 23, 2015

Agility vs. Accountability

The beauty of agile comes in with its incremental nature and use of empiricism to focus on three “I”s - Interaction, Iteration, and Improvement.

Agile has emerged as a major methodology and a set of practices for many IT organizations for software development, it is the time that Agile also needs a serious readjustment to scale it up to a new level. Agile has to be readjusted at different organization levels. Today it is not only about doing Agile, but it is also required outside the software development where accountability really matters, and being Agile - to shape an agile mindset. Agility vs. accountability - what’s the correlation between them?

In the context of a retrospective, one might call that being accountable to practice Agile principle - Have you seen effective agile teams hindered or rendered ineffective when leadership blames instead of practicing root cause analysis to drive continuous improvement across the organization? So "You will be held accountable" is on the face of it, not a bad thing, you have the freedom to do whatever needs to be done, and the responsibility to ensure you do your best to bring about a good outcome. If "accountability" has bad connotations, it is because there is blame attached, and other consequences. The leaders and managers should be more interested in finding "causes"; not interested in assigning blame.

Agile is people-dependent! This is certainly not specific to Agile. No organizational structure or process can compensate for weak personnel. Businesses are organized by function, decompose projects into tasks and assign them out, hold people accountable by having them report status updates on tasks, and either have an inflexible business model or worse yet do not even understand the business model. Things go wrong, the management doesn't always know what is 'best. When that happens the value is in what we can learn, so we know better next time. The connotations of suspicion and blame that come along with "accountable" seriously get in the way of learning what there is to be learned from mistakes.

Agile is a set of processes, and methodologies. But in the big scheme of things, it's just another tool to get things done. Agile methodology is first and foremost about delivering early and often, and delivering the most valuable software soonest. If some agile shops have drifted from this primary value, then it's not a new methodology they need, but perhaps some serious readjustment. To follow accountable agile, one should always work in agile using the requisite structure in an organization, practicing agile requisitely makes it very powerful, It is more accountable and becomes very strong in management. An effective organization is agile in responding to environmental stimuli. Companies that fail to respond to their customers’ unique and changing needs are bound to lose to those that are able to reorganize themselves rapidly.

Agility is the ability to adapt to changes. True accountability focuses on learning as a core value in building an agile culture. It is not uncommon to confuse accountability with blame. They are actually opposites. Shared accountability or collective accountability involves shared ownership because most breakdowns stem from silo behavior where people aren't coordinating, communicating, solving problems or making decisions in a way that considers consequences to others. True accountability focuses on learning to do things differently, Accountability needs to be a two-way commitment that does need to consider real empowerment levels to get the job done. The beauty of agile comes in with its incremental nature and use of empiricism to focus on three “I”s - Interaction, Iteration, and Improvement.


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