To Manage Agile You Need To Know What It Means
A Conference Report
Last week, the Manage Agile conference was held in a conference hotel near Berlin. It offered a mix of workshops and presentations held both by practicioners as well as consultants of agile methods. This way, the program balanced concrete success stories on the one hand with general recommendations on the other, and individual reality checks with reports of recurring patterns.
The talks covered topics like developing an agile organization with an agile culture, scaling agile, the role of managers in agile organizations and their personal development, and the role of HR.
However, Craig Larman set the right key note in his keynote when he set out to define what the word agile actually means (used eight times in this text already since you started reading). His phrase was “to be able to turn on a dime for a dime”, i.e., to be able to quickly and cheaply change direction when circumstances demand it. Such as a changing market, a business opportunity not to miss, profit to be made.
So, if you want to become an agile company, you have to ask yourself what you actually shoot for. “Becoming agile” is not a helpful claim if the goal is not clear. Example: Among three Agile Coaches that I happen to know, there were three different opinions on what they were optimizing their department for.
What is the goal of your agile transition? A “True North” can be stated, even if the path is not clear yet, and will certainly twist and turn in future times in unexpected ways.
Among the possible goals of an agile transition I heard at the conference were
- fast, decentralized decisions
- independent teams
- small concept-to-cash time / cycle time / time-to-market
- delivering results
- fast delivery, continuous delivery (as part of small cycle time)
- low cost of changing priorities, little work-in-progress
- low variation across projects, predictability
- return on investment
- customer value
- low cost of implementing new features, architectural flexibility
- self-organization, responsibility culture
- software quality, low technical debt
- handling complexity
- promoting and living agile values and culture
- personal growth and aligning personal and company values
What do you optimize your organization for?