Now seems the time to add Agile & OKRs to my all books bundle on LeanPub. This bundle allows you to buy all six of my LeanPub books in one go at a discount – $27 instead of $68. While the addition doesn’t apply retrospectively anyone buying the bundle from now on will get Agile OKRs in addition to the other six books.
You’ve heard all these comments right? But have you noticed the tone of voice? The context in which they are said?
In my experience people say these things in a guilty way, what they mean to say is:
“They don’t do Scrum so much as Scrum but we don’t do it the way we should”
“We don’t do Scrum by the book, we changed it, we dropped the Scrum Master, we flex our sprints, …”
“We follow SAFe, except we’ve tailored it by dropping the agile coaches, the technical aspects and …”
“We do a mix of agile methods, we don’t do anything properly and its half baked”
“They call it agile but I don’t think they really understand what agile is”
Practitioners aren’t helped by advisors – coaches, trainers, consultants, what-not – who go around criticising teams for not following “Brand X Method” properly. But forget about them.
I want to rid you of your guilt. Nobody should feel guilty for not doing Scrum by the book, or SAFe the right way, or perfect Kanban.
Nobody, absolutely no person or organization I have ever met or heard of, does any method by the book.
After all “agile is a journey” and you might just be at a different point on the journey right now. To me agile is learning and there is more learning to be done – should we criticise people because the haven’t learned something?
All these methods offer a price fix menu: you pay a fixed price and you get a set menu.
In reality all agile methods should be seen as an à la carte menu: pick what you like, mix and match.
In fact, don’t just pick from the Scrum menu or the SAFe menu, pick across the menus: Scrum, XP, Kanban, SAFe, LeSS, DaD, whatever!
And do not feel guilty about it.
My agile method, Xanpan explicitly says: mix and match. Xanpan lays out a model but it also says change things, find what works for you, steal from others.
The only thing you can get wrong in agile is doing things the same as you did 3 months ago. Keep experimenting, keep truing new ways, new ideas. If you improve then great, if not, roll-back and try something else.
And if you are prepared to trade a little of your time I’m give you Little Book of Agile & OKRs for free. I’m looking for reviewers, right now I’d like feedback on my content, in a few months I’ll be looking for reviews on Amazon.
Testing isn’t, or shouldn’t be, about finding bugs. Type-1 Testing is about ensuring you can go to Type-2 Testing and get some useful feedback. Customer feedback is the really valuable stuff: does your product address the need you saw? Is there more to do? More value to be got? – and does the value delivered justify the cost of doing it?
When I’m being honest it is kind of hard to argue with them, it is certainly “obvious” to me. But at the same time agile is not obvious, or rather, the opposite of agile is also obvious. For example,
Agile says: obviously, you don’t know the future so don’t plan and research too far into the future. Non-agile thinking says: obviously, failure to plan is planning to fail, obviously you need a plan of action, you need to plan for the future.
Agile says: obviously, people work best when they are self-motivated and given a say in what they do. Non-agile says: obviously, people are lazy and will do as little as possible, therefore someone needs to manage them.
Agile says: high quality makes it easier to change in the future, obviously. Non-agile says: obviously, quality is an endless quest, there is no point in polishing something which isn’t important, 20% of the effort gives 80% of the reward so don’t do any more.
Agile emphasises the here and now, the soon, obviously requirements can be handled just-in-time, so live for today. Non-agile says: if we don’t think about the future we will obviously duplicate work and incur additional costs.
And my own entry: obviously, software development as diseconomies of scale therefore optimise for lots of small. The opposite is equally obvious: economies of scale are what makes modern business – and the cloud – successful so exploit them
There are a number of obvious examples that go with that:
Agile says: obviously we should test every change and new feature by itself to avoid the complications of interacting changes. Non-agile says: obviously full test runs are slow and expensive so bundle work together and test it on mass.
Both agile and not-agile are obvious. What you consider obvious depends on your starting point. Once you start thinking “agile” a lot of things become obvious. But if you are not thinking agile then, if you are thinking some other model, then the opposite is also obvious.
Some would term this “An Agile Mindset”. However I don’t want to do that, I find the idea of “an agile mindset” too nebulous. I also note that most of the people I hear talking about “an agile mindset” seem to clinging on to some piece of holy lore which I consider not very agile and they believe is totally agile (the project model and upfront requirements usually.)
Instead I find myself going back to Theory-X and Theory-Y. In general people fall into one camp or the other. If you, your philosophy on work and life, align with theory-Y then all the “agile is obvious” statements above are indeed obvious. Conversely, if you generally follow a theory-X philosophy then all the non-agile statements are obvious.
Perhaps surprisingly I find people can flip, and be flipped, from X to Y. What is more difficult is getting people to unlearn behaviours and actions which they acquired with a theory-X mindset. Even if some element of theory-Y (and agile) is now obvious people need help to learn the new way and let go of the old. Some people can do this by themselves, others need help – or at least help speeding up the change.
Yes, thats part of my job as an Agile Guide. Sometimes just talking (and reflecting on recent events) helps. Sometimes exercises (or process miniatures they are sometimes called) help. Sometimes it is by experiments, exposing people to others can help as well – so conferences, user groups.
Rarely do people change because they went on training and were lectured too, but good training incorporates talking, reflection, exercises, etc. Such training is less training and more about practicing the future.
Obviously, my training is like that: I aim to make my training courses a rehearsal for future actions. Actually, while I “sell” training I prefer to think of it as a rehearsal or kaikaku event – kaikaku events also call a “kaizen blitz”, they are big change events from the people who brought you kaizen, more on them another time.
So when someone I’ve worked with turns around and says “Agile is obvious” I take it as a sign of success. They no longer seem agile as something strange, it is normal, it is onbvious.
Tickets are on-sale now with Tito – with a 20% early bird discount. (I’m using Tito this time because it promises to handle VAT better for those of you outside Europe.) If you have any problems with Tito or would prefer to receive an invoice contact me directly via e-mail, allan at allankelly dot net.
Blog readers can get another 15% off with the code “Blog15”.
Plus, if you book and pay for one workshop you will receive a code for 50% off the other workshops – buy one get two half price offer.
As before there are a few free tickets for the unemployed and furloughed. I might release more unemployed free tickets nearer the time so join the wait list if you are unemployed and miss out.
During the last few months I’ve done a lot of online talks and presentations. Most have been public but some have been private, some have been repeats (with updates) of past presentations while others are completely new.
Unlike conference recordings which show me dancing around a stage these were all delivered online so I expect you will find the recordings better quality. The slides are available as PDFs, again on my website.
A couple of weeks ago I gave a private presentation to an organization entitled: “The Business Case for Agile in 2020.” Actually, it surprised me a bit that in 2020 people still wondered what the business case for agile was but that probably says more about my arrogance and the agile bubble I live in.
I stalled for a few weeks but I’m working on it again so expect more updates in the coming weeks. Please let me know what you think of the book, and if you are using OKRs I would especially appreciate your thoughts and stories – I might even include them!
Anyone who keeps a keen eye on Linkedin might have noticed I recently changed my job description to Agile Guide. I feel “guide” more accurately reflects what I do: part coach, part advisor, part teacher.
I work as a consultant – a hired gun – but “consultant” is a very vague term and covers a lot of ground. Plus a lot of people in the technology industry have a very negative view of consultants. I’ve been known to share that view myself so while consultant might be an accurate description it was also vague and open to misinterpretation.
Many people consider me an Agile Coach, and I have worked as an agile coach. However – as I’ve written before – this too is a conflicted term. Most of us who go by the title “agile coach” like to talk about helping people help themselves, unlocking the individual, respecting the individual as the expert, and so on. I agree with a lot of that and I do it. Sometimes.
I also know what professional coaches do and I don’t feel I’m one of them. I have a lot of respect for real coaches. Such coaches put their own opinions second and I don’t. I am prepared to tell people the way I think it should be – they are free to ignore my advice but I’m prepared to say it.
Thats why I also regard myself as part teacher: not just direct training sessions (which I do) but also one-on-one and in small free format group sessions.
So what title should I use?
I’ve struggled with this for years. My epiphany came a few weeks ago: Agile guide. I help others to get more agile, coaching is one tool but so is direct advice and teaching.
Hadn’t others thought of “Agile Guide”. So I checked out LinkedIn myself. One person. Someone I respect, someone I call a friend: Woody Zuill.
I checked in with Woody and his thinking parallels mine.
So I’m an Agile Guide – I help individuals, teams and enterprises become more agile in a digital world.
Part coach, part advisor, part teacher, plus thinker and route finder. I use skills of coaching, teaching and consultancy.
Who knows, maybe, it will catch on. After all, as Woody pointed out, we have both changed the world already.