Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Agile Practices "Up"

At the top level, Agile needs to be the philosophy to perceive multidimensional business values.

Many forward-looking organizations are shifting from doing Agile to being Agile. Scaling agile needs to be taken in several dimensions. It's not only the number of developers. There is also the number of teams, the number of sites (including onshore or offshore), the number of time zones, the number of products or values streams the developers work on, and so on. And even more importantly, how to follow the set of agile principles and practice Agile up, to build an agile leadership team or boardroom, and practice agile philosophy to run an entire organization?

Agile is not just about process, practices, procedure but about culture, attitude, guidelines, and principles. Agile is like science where scientists are constantly looking for the better theory to prove newer observations. This thing does not fit well with human nature in the short term which looks for stability (even if stability is an illusion), so it leads to the rise of various processes, practices and procedures. Here is how to do something in an agile fashion:
-Find out where you are.
-Take a small step towards your goal.
-Adjust your understanding based on what you learned.

Agile is really about constant renewal. Those who sell packaged practices demonstrate a tenuous understanding of the values and principles that underly the products they sell. Develop your own relationship with the values and principles - you'll recognize anyone who has not. Often agile practices are at odds with the overall corporate or governmental environment. Agile practices up mean more about a mind shift and a set of principles to run an agile organization. Agile principles and agile thinking would be a better bet at today’s business dynamic with increasing speed of change and uncertainty.

Change in attitude and culture need time and patience. Slow and steady exposure of agile culture benefits in immediate, medium and long terms at personal and enterprise level. Many executives deal entirely with predefined practices and requirements that are in place due to the corporate mission and strategies from years ago, regulatory reporting, financial industry expectations, stockholder demands that are fairly constant, etc. So their view of a process that adapts to changing requirements is foreign to them. Executives of many well-established companies tend to be of a "certain age," and more fully versed in corporate politics and how people work than in technology. They tend to be more conservative to avoid changes because major changes are risky and cost money. However, without change and innovation, often the small niche players can disrupt large organizations and even the whole industry overnight.

Agile is more a "direction," than an "end." At the top level, Agile needs to be the philosophy to perceive multidimensional business values. Make the effort at the leadership and portfolio level to qualify and quantify value in terms of both strategic value and tactical value; direct revenue and indirect (mission/vision/values) terms is the first step to crafting high-level strategic intents. When faced with two or more alternatives that deliver roughly the same value, take the path that makes future change easier. Once benefits of agile are visible and understood, a domino effect takes over.


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