Advanced Agile?

23 Feb

I was at an Agile Academy Meetup last night and the topic was “The Agile Journey and beyond”. It was great to hear about the agile concepts and practices being applied, in real world scenarios – small and large organisations. But it was equally great to hear about how these organisations were using agile in the way I think it is meant to be used – not as a rigid framework, but as a guideline for an approach. All three of the speakers made a comment like this (please note that I am paraphrasing here) ….”We tried XYZ and it worked for a while, then it stopped working so well, so we changed it”. I had to giggle when Adrian said they sit down at their standups….because they use a webcam and it is not viable to standup. Another speakers said “we tried the 3 questions at the standup, but it did not work, so now we “walk the wall””. I was really excited to see this extension of agile practices and acknowledgement that the practices that we see, read about and talk about so widely are totally malleable and able to be modified to suit each and every organisation. But there is a gotcha! All of the modifications came as a result of trying the “proper” way of implementing the practices, and then careful and comprehensive understanding of what about the practice did not work, and why, and then careful and incremental changes to the practice to make it work better. It was described best by one of the speakers as “an agile implementation of agile”.
So I was wondering:
1. is taking the agile practices and modifying them a good indication of agile maturity?

2. which practices are the riskiest to change and why?

3. how long should you try the “proper” way before considering change?

4. is modifying the practices a sign of agile maturity of advanced agile usage?

What are your thoughts?

published by Sharon Robson


Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Agile, Culture



3 responses to “Advanced Agile?

  1. Markus Gärtner

    February 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Alistair Cockburn references the Shu-Ha-Ri model for this. You start by exercising martial arts by following a kata to the word. Over time you start to break free, learn new things about the movement, and why it is there in there. Later on, you simply perform.

    This being a model, my own empirical experience has been that for at least three iterations the team shall find out what works for them. After the third iteration, the team knows why is what in place, and how to compensate for side-effects if they stop doing something else.

    In the end, it boils down to Rudy’s Rutabage Rule from The Secrets of Consulting: When you solve your number one problem, number two gets a promotion.

    The most Agile implementations I have seen involved trying something out, and adapting either the practice completely or adapting the practice by changing it.

  2. Sharon Robson

    February 24, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Thanks Marcus, I like the idea of the 3 iterations. It is those side-effects that concern me the most too. Making the change without considering and/or dealing with the effects is risky. I’m really glad that adaptation is widespread, I’d be disappointed if people were blindly following the “process”

  3. James King

    May 24, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    I just had a similar converssation with a participant in one of our courses. But he also asked the question – “What problem is agile trying to solve?”

    “All of them I guess” I responded and people laughed. But I think when you go agile it is great to practice agile katas and try the practices …. but you also need to understand what problem you are tryng to solve.
    If you have no problems then there is no need for agile. If you problem is a lack of executive buy-in then you should adopt (agile?) practices that confront or address this issue.

    So I think the first step to advanced agile is to work out what you would like to improve in your organisation and then adopt practices that you expect with help to solve that problem/opportunity or set of problems/opportunities


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