Why I do what I do

Agile brings a lot to the table.

  • Control your costs more closely, and have your “actuals” actually match your estimates.
  • Get maximum capitalization and pay less in taxes.
  • Really get to understand your value stream to see where the bottlenecks are and address them.
  • Clear and concise user stories help with traceability, coverage, and compliance.
  • Because Agile provides not only transparency, but predictability, it helps keep costs down, but quality up.
  • With reduced costs and maximum capitalization, headcounts can be maintained at levels where employees will have room to thrive in their jobs.
  • Retention levels stay high, and the work/life balance that so many companies only talk about can be a reality.

As an Agilist with a extensive background in quality assurance I have learned one lesson the hard way. Quality cannot be tested in – it has to be baked in! How is this done? Simple. It’s all about systems. Of course people matter, individual competence and integrity are important, but systems matter more. A sure recipe for failure is to put good people in a bad system. So to become great (and you do want to be great, don’t you?), you have to have a system within which people can be great.

A good working definition of Agile is: Deliver maximum value in short increments, with the ability to adjust to changing conditions. By engaging all interested parties early and often, the highest quality and most appropriate product can be made in the shortest time. Customers needs always change and putting in big-design-up-front solutions often deliver a product that is no longer optimal. Delivering the wrong thing is the worst sort of waste. The way to avoid that is small increments. Agile and Scrum provide a way to deliver in short cycles so that new requirements and priorities can be accommodated.

For example, how many times have you had an idea that you believed was well thought out, but as soon as you got your hands on an actual example, the first thing that popped into your head was, “This is nice, but you know, it would really be great if it had …” It looks like a problem, doesn’t it? But it’s actually a great opportunity. Get that “Oh, of course!” moment as early as possible, before great efforts have been invested and time has run out. Improve and make changes. Do it over and over, improving incrementally to evolve a superior product. When the company and customer commit to work together with this approach, greatness happens naturally.

Do your teams waste time in meetings? Do problem personalities and peccadilloes perpetuate poor performance? Believe it or not, team decision making can be systematized as well, and should be for maximum team performance. The second tier in creating great teams is working with team members to teach them how to interact in ways that avoid conflict and create trust. This gets outside the traditional arena of Agile “processes” and more into culture shaping and personal growth. Most companies concentrate on the artifacts of Agile, such as story boards and daily standup meetings. That’s only half the job. Getting the team members to think and interact in an Agile way is just as important. Properly aligned systems at the personal, team, and company level make work the joy that it should be and that it must be if you want to keep a competitive edge.

Professional teams use coaches, and with good reason. A good coach trains, mentors, and troubleshoots with a team to make sure that all systems at all levels in the company are working as they should. Agile is now a mature and well founded approach to business, with many success stories. Do you want to become a part of that? Do you have the courage let go of old ideas to have a great company with great teams?

I’m Bruce Conner – dedicated Agilist. Let’s talk!