After reading Daphne Henning’s pulse article Een illusie armer, agile misvattingen (translated: “One illusion less, agile misconceptions”) here are some thoughts I have about the four points she makes in her article:

1. Don’t be misled by technology > Try solving real people’s (everyday) problems, instead of falling for the trap of innovating in new technology just because it is what successful companies do. These innovations in technology result from innovations in solutions for real problems. 

My thoughts on this: focus on purpose, underlying goals, humanity – adding value by providing good solutions for (everyday) problems. If this can be achieved through innovative technology use, that is fine. But it’s not a requirement. Achieve this by ensuring your employees have time to act, think and experiment creatively on a regular basis. Think ‘free experimentation days’, hackathons, etc.

2. Power of scarcity > Scarcity in startups forces them to focus on what matters, thus making them more successful. The need to survive forces startups to be, do and act Agile.

My thoughts on this: I see just as much scarcity of resources in big corporates. It’s just that the ways of dealing with scarcity means projects and ideas are not being generated or killed prematurely. And big corp is generally less agile to adapt and restructure to pivot. Startups are generally small, and less structure that hampers their ability to regroup, pivot and charge on after an experiment fails. By restructuring big corps to be more adaptive and act as several smaller startup like orgs within the big corp, they can achieve better Agility as well. Obviously it is not that simple in practice, but something I believe big corps should think about if they want to stay relevant and on top of innovation.

3. Perception of chaos >  Agile does not (should not) lead to chaos. Big corps are often afraid to lose control, so they impose more rules, more controls, more checks and more hoops to jump though, even to achieve the most simple things. But in agile way of working, you can use minimum viable bureaucracy (spotify) for instance, to continuously adapt the governance, rules and constraints in your company, to be as lightweight and flexible as possible while still guaranteeing a good quality, sufficient documentation, etc. Communication is key in this.

My thoughts: Read the agile manifesto. it does not say “no documentation”, it simply values some stuff over some other stuff, when you are faced with priorities. Agile is not zero governance, is not cowboy development, is not randomly racing and seeing what sticks. Daphne hits the nail on the head: minimum control, minimum restrictions, just those that are proven to be necessary, and be always improving by adapting to new insights here, just as you are improving by adapting your products & services.

4. Misunderstanding Scrum > Agile is not Scrum. Working in small teams, being cross-functionally organized is key. Having a soccer team of 11 keepers is not going to be the best strategy to win the world cup. Also, a simple practice  (or framework in this case) does not mean it is easy to master.

My thoughts: Had to smile at the use of the word methodology. Scrum is not a methodology but a Framework and herein lies the essence of what Daphne describes: the framework of Scrum provides a set of constraints, events and roles that enable Agility. Scrum is like training wheels. When starting to try out Agile way of working, it is very handy to have all your energy to focus on the change in mindset and getting what it’s really all about. Scrum helps by providing clarity and structure. Did you notice: The change in mindset is what it’s all about! This is the hard part, and by starting to work in an Agile way (whether with Scrum or another framework) will provide many challenges, most of which are simply exposing existing problems that are so accepted that they have been deeply accepted and engrained in the system of the company/organization that is transforming to agile. 

My kicker > Agile transformation has many benefits, the main one is having empowered workers and greater flexibility to pivot, innovate, etc. However, be prepared to deal with many problems, most of which are deeply set in the ‘old’ system that has come to be over many years of working in certain ways and continuously growing and expanding layers of hierarchy and control, and mostly, fear of accountability.

I could go on for hours, but this ramble of thoughts is over.  I hope it made sense, and that I did right by the original points Daphne made in Dutch (and not too much of it got lost in translation) 🙂

Previously published on sjoerdly.tumblr.com

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