Archive for the ‘The Agile Life’ Category
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I feel honored and privileged.
Agile methods have been gaining popularity to the extent that one sees the term Agile used beyond the domain of software methods. Agile Infrastructure and Agile Business Service Management were used in this blog and elsewhere. Recently I have seen the term used in the domain of Business Process Management (BPM). For example, a presentations entitled Best Practices for Agile BPM will be delivered in the forthcoming Gartner Group Business Process Management Summit 2010.
I have no doubt the term Agile will be adopted in various fields. Using BPM as an example, I propose the following three criteria to differentiate between agile (small A) and Agile (capital A):
- Beyond software: A software team carrying out a BPM initiative might use Agile methods. This fact to itself does not suffice to make the initiative Agile BPM.
- Methodical specificity: Roles, forums/ceremonies and artifacts for the BPM initiative must be specified. Folks might be already applying Lean, TOC or other approaches to BPM, but a definitive Agile BPM method has not crystalized yet.
- Values: Adherence in spirit to the four principles of the Agile Manifesto. Replace the word “software” with “product” in the manifesto (just two occurences!) and you get a universal value statement that is not restricted to “just” software. It applies to BPM as well as to any other field in which products are produced and used.
You might be impressively agile in what you do but it does not necessarily make you Agile. The pace by which you do things must be anchored in a broader perspective that incorporates customers and employees. A forthcoming post entitled Indivisibility of the Principles of Operation will explore the connection between the Agile values (plural) you hold and the business value (singular) you generate.
Cutter Consortium has published predictions for 2010 by about a dozen of its experts. My own prediction, which examines the crash of 1929, the burst of the “dot-com bubble” in 2000 and the financial collapse in 2008, is actually quite bullish:
I expect 2010 to be the first year of a prolonged golden age. Serious as the various problems we all are wrestling with after the 2008-2009 macro-economic crisis are, they should be viewed as systemic to the way a new generation of revolutionary infrastructure gets assimilated in economy and society.
In addition to the techno-economic view expressed in the Cutter prediction, here are my Agile themes for 2010:
- Agile moves “downstream” into Release Management.
- Agile breaks out of Development into IT (and beyond) in the form of Agile Infrastructure and Agile Business Service Management.
- SOA and Agile start to be linked in enterprise architecture and software/hardware/SaaS organizations.
- Kanban starts an early adoption cycle similar to Scrum in 2006.
Acknowledgements: I am thankful to my colleagues Walter Bodwell, Sebastian Hassinger, Erik Huddleston, Michael Cote and Annie Shum who influenced my thinking during 2009 and contributed either directly and indirectly to the themes listed above.
Various Agile champions within the corporation often find themselves stuck at “level 1.5”, in between the following two levels:
- “I found my voice/passion.”
- “I found my tribe.”
The Agile champion typically gets stuck at this level in the following manner:
- He/she finds his or her voice/passion in Agile.
- Various other folks in the corporation agree with him/her and constitute kind of “private tribe.”
- However, the folks that agree are hesitant to come out of the closet and throw their full weight behind Agile.
- The corporation remains ambivalent about Agile.
This “1.5” phenomenon is at the root of a vicious cycle that dilutes companies, particularly these days:
- A round of layoffs is implemented.
- Just about everyone takes notice and tries to exhibit the “proper behavior/values.”
- Folks in the “private tribe” don’t dare come out of the closet.
- The passionate person who found his/her voice in Agile is like a fish out of the water. Sooner or later he/she looks for a tribe elsewhere.
- The company becomes more diluted on folks who are willing to try new things and have the drive to make them happen.
- The products and the supporting processes continue to be mediocre.
- Goto step 1.
IMHO The failure of many corporations to preserve Agile talent, and the resultant vicious cycle described above, is rooted in lack of appreciation how deep the connection between boredom and loneliness is. A young child does not know (nor does he/she have the vocabulary to express) what boredom is. The feeling the child expresses is that of loneliness. Only at a later stage does boredom get cognitively differentiated from loneliness. However, the two continue to be tied together emotionally.
Once the child grows up to become an Agile champion who found his/her voice, the boredom in the office is usually relieved. However, the twin sister of boredom – loneliness – cannot be satisfied through a “private tribe.” It requires full recognition and commitment within the corporation. In other words, it sort of demands that the corporation goes beyond recognizing the value (singular) of Agile and adopts the values (plural) expressed in the Agile Manifesto. If such adoption does not take place, an essential step to the formation of the tribe is curtailed . Without a full fledge tribe in his/her corporation, the induced feeling of loneliness sooner or later wears out the Agile champion.
This phenomenon, of course, applies to any professional passion an employee might pursue. John Hagel‘s Edge Perspectives post Pursuing Passion is a must-read for anyone who wonders how the corporation is impacted by losing the folks who got stuck at “level 1.5.”