Friday, November 21, 2014

How agile are we?

"Hey, we're doing Agile now!" - "We too, but it doesn't work".
How often do we hear this? Too often.

Not everyone who has put the term "Agile" on their IT strategy is doing the same things. More precisely: Everyone understands something else under the term "Agile".

As others have pointed out, "Agile" requires more education than a 2-day training course for prospective Product owners and Scrum masters can provide.

Here is my suggestion for an Agile Maturity Model of Implementation (AMMI).

Agile performers

You can't really predict what their practices are, and frankly, they don't even care so much about specific practices or processes. What they care about is: Valuable software and happy customers. Everything else is subject to that and negotiable.
The main thing they have in common: They thoroughly understand the reasons why their processes and organizations look the way they do.
These performers are the reason why the Agile Manifesto is so short.
They follow, what could be called a "Scientific truth" (credit: Paul Oldfield). They experimented, adjusted and have gained confidence that their current approach is the best way at the current time. Gaining evidence that other approaches will yield better results, they will quickly move on.

Agile transitioners

When getting into a transitioning company, you can most likely predict their processes and organization based on subject literature. You could update the "Scrum Primer" accurately by taking pictures of their ceremonies. They're seriously trying, and probably seeing some improvements over their old methods of working.
Most likely, the way they are doing things is highly imperfect, but hey - empiricism means learning by doing!
What transitioners often have in common is that they lack deeper understanding of how to optimize their agile practices. 
They follow, what could be called a "Political truth" (credit: Paul Oldfield). They were convinced by someone that their current approach is the best choice.

Agile cargoists

"Man, we've been Agile for a year now and nothing has improved! We're doing everything exactly how Spotify is doing it, but ROI hasn't improved!" - Agile cargoists religiously follow prescribed patterns in hope of results. Unfortunately, these never turn up. 
Cargiosts, at first glance, look like transitioners. The big difference is that their Continuous Improvement Process is either political in nature (i.e. the team is not empowered to change) or fad-driven, i.e. researching what others do. 
They follow, what could be called a "Religious truth" (credit: Paul Oldfield). A reputable source claims that this approach is the best, hence it must be so.


The entire spectrum between "Don't know about it", "Read about it, but it's not for us" and "Tried it, didn't work, we're back to classic project management". 

Agile by Name Only

Get into an ABNO and you will find tons of Project Managers dressed up as Scrum Masters and Business Analysts / Architects vested as Product Owner. 
Most likely, projects start with a Feasibility Study, Requirement Documentation, Budget Planning and Detailed Design before ever involving an "Agile developer". 
The "Agile transition" in these companies was fast and painless: Managers were sent to a 2-day training course, the titles on business cards were adjusted and voilá: A new agile all-star is born!
Agile culture are at best random elements, but not the norm.
ABNO's usually blame Agile for being ineffective and give the entire approach a bad name.
Transitioning an ABNO into an agile organization is probably harder than teaching a granite block how to swim.
The best thing about ABNO's is that they will return to the Non-Agile department sooner or later: Most likely after firing most of their "ineffective developers". At least, they'll have plenty of managers left.

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