Category: Agile

Practice Makes Perfect

For abil­i­ties to become effec­tive skills, we have to prac­tice a lot, make mis­takes, and gain expe­ri­ence. What is intu­itive­ly under­stood for rid­ing a bicy­cle or for crafts­man­ship is gross­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed and some­times com­plete­ly ignored in the agile trans­for­ma­tion of orga­ni­za­tions. Pop­u­lar mod­els and frame­works are good start­ing points, but at the core it is about learn­ing new skills of col­lab­o­ra­tion jointly.

The Borg Effect: Assimilation Instead of Transformation

When agile meth­ods encounter encrust­ed struc­tures of tra­di­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, one can­not auto­mat­i­cal­ly expect a sus­tain­able trans­for­ma­tion. It is much more like­ly that the new prac­tices will be inte­grat­ed into the exist­ing struc­tures as smooth­ly as pos­si­ble through assim­i­la­tion. As an Agile coach, you might feel as secure and effec­tive as Jean-Luc Picard in the cap­tiv­i­ty of the Borg.

First the Problem, Then the Solution!

Agile frame­works are col­lec­tions of gen­er­al­ized solu­tions to typ­i­cal prob­lems in agile orga­ni­za­tions. Apply­ing these solu­tions works best when the pain of the prob­lem is felt instead of just under­stood the­o­ret­i­cal­ly. An agile trans­for­ma­tion is not an intro­duc­tion of a frame­work but a joint jour­ney on which obsta­cles are dis­cov­ered and solved with the help of the known frameworks. 

Efficiency Through Nimbleness

Agile meth­ods do not direct­ly affect effi­cien­cy. Agile stands for nim­ble. Agili­ty ensures effec­tive­ness through nim­ble­ness. This adapt­abil­i­ty min­i­mizes the risk of unnec­es­sary work and rework. The effi­cien­cy of agili­ty comes only indi­rect­ly through reduc­ing risk and avoid­ing waste.

When the Method Becomes the Problem

When a com­pli­cat­ed prob­lem stub­born­ly resists attempts to solve it, it may be more com­plex than ini­tial­ly thought. In this case, a change of method from ana­lyt­ics to empiri­cism, from a plan-dri­ven to a more agile approach, can work won­ders. In this way, a lay­man in the field of air­craft con­struc­tion suc­ceeds in doing what legions of engi­neers before him have been unable to do.

Agility is Team Sport

The end of the year is the time of appraisal inter­views. Usu­al­ly the per­for­mance of the indi­vid­ual is eval­u­at­ed. How­ev­er, the cre­ation of val­ue in orga­ni­za­tions and espe­cial­ly in agile teams is actu­al­ly always the result of team­work. This focus on indi­vid­ual per­for­mance leads to loose groups of mediocre soloists instead of excel­lent team performance.

The Logic of Agility

When peo­ple talk about agili­ty, some rave about cus­tomer ori­en­ta­tion and speed, while oth­ers invoke the self-orga­ni­za­tion and auton­o­my of the team. Most­ly these and some oth­er con­cepts float more or less inco­her­ent­ly in a mys­ti­cal cloud around the cen­tral con­cept of agili­ty. An attempt to put these ideas into a log­i­cal context.

The Agile Transformation and Its Metrics

In ret­ro­spect, I con­sid­er it one of my biggest mis­takes to have always cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly reject­ed met­rics for the agile trans­for­ma­tion. Although I still see the dan­ger of an explo­sion of car­go cult if phe­nom­e­na of agili­ty are mea­sured and reward­ed instead of the essence, I would con­scious­ly take the risk today. For soon­er or lat­er, in every trans­for­ma­tion, there comes a time when the ques­tion is raised very insis­tent­ly as to what all this is meant to achieve and what it brings. And then you have to beat the sys­tem with its own weapons.

Practical Constraints: Resistance is Futile

Every trans­for­ma­tion entails fric­tion with the sta­tus quo. Those who sim­ply accept the prac­ti­cal con­straints that are brought into play dilute the trans­for­ma­tion. The new is then only some­how amal­ga­mat­ed with the col­lec­tive with­out bring­ing about a sig­nif­i­cant change. The trans­for­ma­tion itself is trans­formed and its pro­tag­o­nists are either assim­i­lat­ed or repelled. 

Gap Size and Agility

The cre­do of the start-up cul­ture, “Fail fast, fail cheap”, still has the bland after­taste of slop­pi­ness for Ger­man engi­neers and their man­agers. This typ­i­cal Ger­man fix­a­tion on gap sizes pre­vents agili­ty and slows us down.

Cynefin and Corona

Although the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus is cer­tain­ly not a wel­come but nev­er­the­less a good rea­son to reflect on how to deal with com­plex­i­ty and deci­sion-mak­ing in com­plex to chaot­ic sit­u­a­tions. The Cynefin frame­work by David Snow­den pro­vides a very help­ful frame­work to this end.

In Titanic’s Ballroom

Sever­al so called agile trans­for­ma­tions ulti­mate­ly end with peo­ple danc­ing rock ’n’ roll instead of a slow waltz in Titan­ic’s ball­room and some beau­ti­ful­ly dec­o­rat­ed deckchairs. And even if…

Impact over Input

Success­ful agile orga­ni­za­tions are strong­ly ori­ent­ed towards a com­mon mis­sion despite the guid­ing prin­ci­ple of self-orga­ni­za­­­tion. Auton­o­my requires ori­en­ta­tion, oth­er­wise it leads to chaos. Of course, all oth­er organizations…