“No plan survives the contact with the enemy” – Helmuth von Moltke
it’s amazing. More than 20 years after the Agile Manifesto we are still discussing what Agile is. And – to my mind – often are getting it wrong.
Some of the “wrongness” is out of convenience. If Agile is reduced to a delivery method – which it frequently is – it can easily be delegated to R & D or IT for implementation.
Unfortunately, the “Agile Industrial Complex” selling certificates and scaling methods would have it appear that way. Endless discussions about optimising Scrum implementations among the cognoscenti in trendy Medium forums are not helping the cause either.
However, while the Manifesto’s Agile was created based on the learnings of software developers, Agile has a much wider strategic scope. Its concepts precede software development and reach back to Prussian military strategist Helmuth von Moltke, who wanted his troops to be able to autonomously cope with the continuously changing situation on the battlefield.
True Agile is based on a few fundamental principles:
Focus on Customer Outcomes
Agile is first and foremost about a focus on creating value for customers. This extends far beyond the “working software” that the Manifesto claims. Or the delivery of projects and tasks, ideated by executives, in half the time – as suggested elsewhere.
Experiment, Discover, Iterate, and Improve
Value is created by understanding what influences customer outcomes and then building the products to drive them. Continuous discovery and the experimental generation of data create the foundation for iteratively delivering maximum customer value.
Small, Empowered Teams
To be able to react to discovery findings and timely create value, agile teams have to be small, full-stack and empowered to do the right things – in the context of an agreed direction. Using data, not HIPPO opinions as their guidance.
Work in a Network
Agile teams need to be empowered to act like a flotilla of pirate speedboats in pursuit of common objectives. Agile networks still require hierarchy, however, not for “ordering the flotilla”, but deciding the objectives to be pursued.
If you are interested in following this train of thought further, here are two reads worth their while:
By Steve Denning. Almost an abbreviated version his eminently interesting book “The Age of Agile”
OKR and Agile: Stop Waterfall Goals
Felipe Castro lays out how OKRs and Agile in combination can overcome the feature factory syndrome.
Enjoy your weekend – we just had a wonderful walk in the snow!
All the best,