By Arie Van Bennekum
Can I be honest? Let me not wait for your answer and just give my opinion. Agile is so simple. The results can be (positive) huge but Agile itself is simple. Ron Jeffries (I think) owns the quote “it is all common sense but uncommon discipline”. And still so many struggle, don’t get it right or even worse, it all goes horribly wrong. How come? What in the world is hindering people to do something pretty easy just not right?
Looking at Agile, it is an interaction concept. Technique can make you excel once the interaction concept is in place. The interaction is the fundament for the Agile way of working, the values and principles are guiding. Agile embeds about 10 interaction techniques or rituals If you are able to create a maximum of transparency throughout the organisation, projects and operations using those rituals you are on your way. And this is where the hick up evolves, the quality and the discipline in applying the Agile rituals is under pressure. Over and over again when I come into organisations I notice the rituals are either not done at all or done in a very strange way (I have seen DAM’s taking over an hour…).
I hear remarkable quotes. Let me give a few… “We do Agile, we don’t document”, “When I work remote I will not attend the daily because I want to focus on the work”, “We do the daily only once a week, it costs too much time”, “We don’t do retro’s anymore, they are always the same”, etc., etc….
So where did this gap come from? Coming back to my previous statement “Agile is so simple”, something is going on there. The question is what? Doing Agile in a high quality way it gives you better value, at an earlier moment, more frequent and with higher quality. Everybody wants that… Often when I am on stage I use the expression “if you want something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done”. Again, what is it you have to do that is so difficult. I have only one answer, it is the change of your internalised perception of things. They determine your reflexes. Reflexes that show under pressure. You have to change your paradigms, your mindset, quite a few of your perceptions in your work. That is the hindering thing here, fixed paradigms. When you only do the mechanical Agile and not true Agile, where you understand how the rituals help you in being Agile to get the benefits of working Agile, that is the issue. And in my opinion the individual paradigms (often camouflaged by organisational paradigms) are the (biggest) issue in becoming Agile.
Without going in all the details, I did that in a blog some time ago, let me give a few examples.
Documentation (contributing to “maximising the work not done”)
What a thing this is. Somehow people these days mix up documentation and Ms-Word… Don’t get me wrong, I use MS-Word too but there is a distinct difference between documentation and the tool. What about information radiators? System documentation on the wall, easy to access, maintained by the team and all the debt and details needed to do the job. No hand over from own individual to the other. A central open, always available item owned by the team. It creates quality, actuality, efficiency and avoid knowledge isolation, misunderstanding and the mix up between versions… Letting go of the endless typing behind a screen and delivering the work as a team seems simple and always shows to be a huge step for people…
Limiting WIP (contributing to “stop starting, start finishing”)
The effect of continuous context switching of people on their productivity and the quality of their work is huge. That is no rocket science and still people do a 100 things during the day and respond to every trigger, from email via phone to whatsapp… On top of this management is often pushing them around “to do this, to do that” and is still wondering why everything is late and keeps coming back. Allowing people to get into their concentration peak, finish work with focus and then get to the next seems a gap to big to bridge…
There are more of corse. Things like maintaining waterfall sequences for design, build and testing, things like changing requirements, things like…and so on and so on. Maybe something for another time…
And the worst statement of all? “Why should we change this, we have done it for years like this.”…. a quote I heard from more then one self declared Agilist.