Being Agile: It’s a Matter of Perspective
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean”, she said. “She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, The young woman would make the same comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: “Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.” The husband nonchalantly said, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
It’s been more than 15 years since Agile Manifesto is formulated but still there are strong voices heard for and against adoption of Agile. Its interesting to hear the arguments of why ‘Agile’ does not work and these arguments are not very different from when traditional project management practices were employed. If you analyze Standish Group 2015 Chaos Report, its interesting to align some of the common concerns about Agile with what is shared in the report.
Some of common concerns about Agile include:
#1. Agile just works for smaller projects:
Larger the goals, greater the chances of failure, regardless of how you execute your strategy. As I had shared in my previous post, Being Agile: Identifying Right Opportunities To Act, one of the Agile principles is, “If You Have to Fail, Fail Fast”. Whether we take the approach of Waterfall, Spiral, RUP or Agile SDLC methodology, success is more certain when we break our larger goal(s) into smaller milestones and frequently measure our execution results with the plan. According to the report, 18% of large scale projects are successful when adapting to Agile, compared with Waterfall’s 3% success rate. So the notion of Agile not working for large projects is not necessarily a fact.
#2. Agile does not work in some native cultures:
There are few articles stating that Agile does not work in places like Asia or Germany. It’s the most generalized statement without acknowledging that we are more global now than ever before and emotional maturity in an organization is changing faster than ever before. Having lived and worked in countries including India, Japan, USA and Argentina, I have experienced various cultures and learned that it is not as much about the culture of the native country as it is about the culture of the organization. In an earlier post, Be Too Agile To Be Governed By Fear Of Change, I shared that Agile is all about adapting to change; it was built on the foundational principle that business drivers will change and the culture of organization must be ready to adapt for it to be successful.
#3. Agile is getting more done in less:
Agile is more about being focused on delivering value and ability to respond to changes. While practicing the principles of Agile, it does feel like we are improving productivity, but that’s a result of applying the right principles. The motivation of adopting to Agile with the expectation that more can be delivered from the same team, is not the right thought process. In my earlier post, An Agilist Needs More Than Training To Succeed, I shared that implementing Agile in any organization requires more than just knowing the terms or ceremonies.
#4. Agile works only with co-located teams:
It’s not as much about whether the team is co-located or not, but it’s more about how much the project team is involved in the decision-making and information-gathering process. A remote team can be as successful provided the team is actively involved enough with a robust communication channel established. Communication channel is key, which would include transparent user feedback, requirements review, R & D, prototyping and other consensus-building tools. In one of my previous posts, Everyone’s Perspective Is Key In Retrospectives, I shared that people with a different perspective can come up with some incredible ideas and it’s about the right feedback channels in place.
#5. Agile works only with strong performers in the team:
No team member comes to work to do a bad job and it’s usually the culture of an organization or project team that usually fails performers. So it does not matter whether you are employing Agile or not, performance of project team is dependent on collective success more than individual heroics. Agile encourages cross-functional teams to bring down silos and when the silos are removed, collective performance improves, as there is better sense of common goal(s). In my previous post, 5 Tips on Strategizing Your Key Project Resources, I shared five tips on how to strategize your key project resources.
IMHO, it’s not about which SDLC methodology or Project Management practices you follow for successfully delivering quality services, but it’s about the principles you embrace to achieve goals. ‘Being Agile’ is not about some practices or set of rules, it’s about how disciplined principles are applied to achieve strategic objectives.
“There are no facts, only interpretations.” ? Friedrich Nietzsche