For those that have been on the Agile journey for a while this post will hopefully come as no surprise, but if you are fairly new on the journey I wanted to take the opportunity to clarify what I feel is a common misconception about Agile.
In the early days of Agile we made it a Waterfall versus Agile war. It was one or the other. One over the other. This when ‘x’, that when ‘y’. We spent time explaining the pitfalls of Waterfall and why Agile was better. Maybe that was right at the time. Maybe we did it because we didn’t know better. Whatever the reason the concept of an Agile transformation being replace old process with Agile has stuck around.
But I don’t think that the point of an Agile transformation is a process shift.
I have a suspicion that where Agile has succeeded, it did so not because of the process shift but because of something else – a thinking model shift.
What was the problem that we were trying to fix with Agile? Was it really the process or the mindsets that people had? The manifesto articulates it somewhat – “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. It isn’t that process isn’t important it is that the thinking model that process should always trump was broken and that some slack should be given to humans who may have felt that the process didn’t make sense given the complexity of the situation.
Somehow, despite the manifesto, when we began Agile transformations we ignored the “over processes and tools” somewhere along the line. Frameworks and certifications are springing up everywhere – SAFe, Kanban certification, Disciplined Agile Certification, ICAgile, Scrum, etc. How many of these are focused on process and technique over the ability to shift thinking models?
What I feel Agile should be is different now than it once was. What I feel the manifesto should be now, is more along the lines of:
We are uncovering better ways of working together as human beings to deliver value to shareholders and delight to customers whilst at the same time improving the engagement of employees. Through this we have come to value:
- Synergistic thinking over mechanistic/analytic thinking
- Servant and situational leadership over command and control management (alt: unleashed human potential over apathetic or toxic environments)
- Full value stream optimization over sub process optimization
- Process experimentation over defined process
- Aggressive feedback controls over prolonged feedback controls
- Stimulated neurological pathways over stagnant neurological pathways (alt: learning culture over sole focus on delivery culture)
- Breathing space to enable creativity and innovation over 100%(+) utilization
That is to say whilst the things on the right are our current behaviours, we want to shift to the items on the left