December 4, 2014

Agile is constant change

One of the key foundations of helping your business become Agile is the use of empiricism. Empiricism is the scientific approach based on evidence, where any idea must be tested against observations, rather than intuition. Empiricism is based on three pillars: transparency, inspection and adaptation. Adaptation has many synonyms, of which ‘change’ is the most common. One of the reasons that I like working within the Scrum framework is that there are clear learning opportunities built in – otherwise you need to put these in yourself.

After a short time you and your team should reflect on what has happened, and how it affected the performance within the team. Building on the better understanding, the team should decide what they will do to enhance the good things, and remove the bad things – that is you should focus on changing the environment to be better. This means that things will be different. If the situation is not different, then you have not acted on the learning (or your team are perfect).

In the movie Groundhog Day, the weatherman (Phil) realises that he is repeating the same day. He then goes wild and breaks all the rules, and after he gets bored and then focuses on improving. He then makes each day a little better than the previous day – until he gets the perfect day.

The resistance to change that he suffers at the start of the movie is similar to how teams struggle to enact change.

clip_image002

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have seen a number of teams get stuck because:

1) They try to change too much

2) They don’t see anything to change

3) The team is changing at a rate faster than the organisation can accept
 

Try to change too much

Limit the number of things that you are going to change. If it is a significant or challenging thing, then only take one action. Talk about this item in each Daily Scrum.
 

Nothing to Change

There are two extremes for this mindset, one extreme is being overwhelmed, and the other extreme is that of not seeing any way that the team could work better.

In both situations a way around this is to focus on a clear vision. If the team have a common goal, then the current state can be compared with that goal, and then find the one change that will give the most benefit for the least effort. Once a change, no matter how small, is enacted then you are moving and the momentum can grow.
 

Team vs Organisation change

Often the smaller teams (development and Scrum) gain the insight that agility is a continuous process and a mindset, not a state. Many organisations and leaders think that agile is a silver bullet, that gets invoked and that is all that is required.

The organisation needs to move to the mindset that things will be different, every day, every week. That is at the heart of business agility.

Helping this understanding take hold at a wider level is the responsibility of all the people helping develop the agility of the organisation. Depending on the organisation using a framework may help – the structure provides the robustness needed to embed an enduring change.

You will know your team is actively being agile when you use the phrase “for our team, we have found …” to describe your ways of working- regardless of what framework you started out with. Your team will have developed into a state of continuous improvement, using agile tools and techniques to deliver a better product, more frequently.