Agility as an Enabler for Local Intelligence
Much has been written about agile processes, how they can better respond to changing requirements and be used to tune approaches over time through retrospectives and adaptation. While this is true, it masks the importance of human involvement. It is people that respond to change and teams who update and tune their processes. Agile methods give more freedom and autonomy for teams to do the right thing, but it is the team members that act intelligently to improve things.
Understanding this distinction--that agile methods don’t directly help much, instead it is the actions of agile team members--allows us to better explain why some agile projects go well and others do not. Agile processes are an enabler for intelligent action, but not a guarantee of it. Teams that are asked to follow agile methods but not motivated or equipped to improve the project environment will likely fail.
This is why we often see some agile project teams do very well and others struggling to produce results within the same organization. If you look at the processes both teams are following, they look the same. They might both be doing daily standup meetings, iteration planning sessions, backlog prioritization, demos to the business and retrospectives. However, these processes don’t ensure success; it is the local decision making that comes from them (which we observe in different ways
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"How much deeper would the ocean be if sponges didn't live there?"
- Steven Wright