Project Management

Trying to be Agile - first post

From the Trying to be Agile Blog
A blog about my experiences with agile project management as I continue on my Shu Ha Ri journey. I will share experiences from clients (anonymously of course) along with my reflections as I inspect and adapt.

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Trying to be Agile - first post

Categories: agile

I came up with the idea for this blog while listening to a presentation by Dave Prior at Agile 2014. He was talking about our agile journey and how do we know when we get there. The reality is, we don’t really get there, we continue on a path.

As an example, I've been working with a client that thinks they're doing agile but the reality is they're not really being agile. They put some practices in place that are agile-like but the actual mindset hasn’t really settled in. For example, they are writing user stories but for every user story they write a use case that's a very detailed requirement. They are writing this all up before the first iteration planning session, so in essence they’re still planning a waterfall method but just using user stories.

I think one of the reasons they reached this point is that at some point a couple years ago they were trained on agile but after the training they started following some of these practices without really understanding the principles behind them. As time went on they started to drift back towards some of their waterfall practices and without continued coaching and mentoring they drifted farther away from being agile.

Whether we’re looking at our individual path or an organizational one, agile is about inspecting and adapting. Frameworks like Scrum might be a good starting point, but we need to continue to adapt those practices to fit our needs. We need to continue to ask “How can I do this better?” 

Posted on: August 26, 2014 10:27 PM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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I think that a critical factor in effective agility is an attitude of simplicity. Imagine something similar to the no-nonsense, intensely pragmatic attitude proposed by Miyamoto Musashi in his Book of Five Rings. In my own Agile Coaching practice, I find such an attitude is essential, even if we are not fighting with swords but rather with ideas, and our true enemy is complexity rather than any other human.

I am frequently facing situations similar to what Bob describes, often seeing people "trapped" into such a cycle of over-elaboration and over-documentation of requirements up-front. People forget the connection to the end-user. People get engrossed in specification and analysis. People get easily seduced by complexity, it is often very intellectually stimulating and can easily lead to a kind of addiction. People often forget to ask "how will this feature be of value to the end user?", or "how will we measure how valuable this feature will be?", or "how soon can we experiment with this feature and check user impressions?"

Agile ways of work are about putting the end customer first and foremost in the mind of the entire Product Development Team. Agile work focuses on creating the small product increments of the highest possible value, and then checking that the actual user experience unleashes at least as much value as was expected (exceptional teams will relentlessly pursue customer delight). When that does not quite happen, we inspect, and we adapt to do more of the features that were of great value and fewer of the features that were not as well appreciated by the user community.

When business leaders insist on seeing small product increments frequently, there will not be enough time left for people to get too lost in writing use cases anymore. The Development Team will naturally gravitate toward simplicity. Limiting the amount of Work in Process is a vital starting point on the path to improving the flow of value.

In summary, I suggest we should all continue our efforts to demonstrate simplicity by example. That may well inspire people to transform their habits.

Thanks Bob, totally agreed, agile about inspecting and adapting!

Thanks for sharing

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