Being Agile: Applying Common Sense With An Uncommon Level Of Discipline
It takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.
– Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers
Agile is applying common sense with an uncommon level of discipline. It’s a journey of continuous improvements with the openness in providing an environment in which one can learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Below are some of my common sense tips in applying Agile philosophy with an uncommon level of discipline:
#1. Prepare for a marathon:
While applying Agile philosophy in delivering services, prepare for a marathon, and not just a sprint. It’s important to ensure clarity about the end objectives and lead the Agile team to show great commitment for the same. Both Pigs (those committed) & Chickens (those involved) should base their decisions on long-term strategic objectives instead of always just tunnel focussed on sprint goals. Agile philosophy comes good when it is motivated by authority while fostering an environment of collaboration, which is constructive, open & respectful.
#2. Ensure authentic communication:
Authentic communication is key for creating an environment, which brings impediments to the surface by having more engaged employees. It provides a culture in which the team can afford stopping to fix the problems and get the quality right the first time itself. In my earlier post, Looking At An Impediment From A Value Perspective, I shared how when faced with an impediment, one can enlarge the vision for viewing the impediment from the perspective of delivering value.
#3. Build a culture of learning from doing:
In an Agile environment driven by cross functional teams & innovations, learning from doing is key. Just the lip service of doing ‘retrospection’ at the end of sprint is not enough. Truly build a learning culture through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen). In my earlier post, Value Stream Mapping As A Process Improvement Tool, I shared how Value Stream Mapping can be used as a tool for identifying inefficiencies in the processes within your organization.
#4. Do not have the “Ants in the pants” attitude:
The “Ants in the pants” attitude can be a problem with beginner practitioners of Agile where expectations are wrongly set to start seeing immediate results. Practice the ‘Rolling Wave’ adaptive planning to achieve the results and keep your expectations realistic. Keep in mind that an empirical approach generally yields better results than a perspective one. It’s important to define some milestones and measure the success based on those milestones.
#5. Practice Agile with a purpose more than need:
Purpose is more important than need. In the chase between a lion and a deer, many times the deer wins. One reason could be that the lion runs for food, while the deer runs for life. While practicing Agile, it’s important to practice with an understanding of the purpose of outcome or output in context of solving a business problem. Most of the Agile practitioners do not use governance well enough for monitoring and controlling the project.
Discipline is the deciding factor to ensure transparency and accountability are promoted through the Agile philosophy. In my earlier post, An Agilist Needs More Than Training To Succeed, I shared that getting trained in Agile does not necessarily mean that we have started thinking ‘Agile’. After training, work with your organization towards implementing changes, including predictable delivery by taking small steps in developing an environment. This fosters a collaboration culture with a shared vision across the organization. This change would require an uncommon level of discipline.
Please share your experiences on the uncommon level of discipline you follow while practicing Agile.
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