Scaling Agile what it means? and how to measure it?

Instead of being a goal, Agile for me is enabler for the organization to stay in business and therefore to grow. I believe Scaling Agile is about the effective use of this enabler to solve organizational problems which stand in the way of its own growth. The idea is that it is not definitive on how the organization can grow so that it can remain in business. The organization needs Agile as enabler or tool to uncover such problems and address them. Continue reading

Growth mindset for enterprise Agile adoption

Enterprise Agile adoption goes beyond the project level adoption of Agile to address organizational wide  problems. A strategy for enterprise adoption of Agile can expose those problems, which are to be resolved by its employees (practitioners and managers). Organizations which implement Agile at the project level without solving organizational wide problem are just doing Agile. This has very limited gains to the organization. In this post  I will demonstrate why the growth mindset is needed for the organization to become Agile instead of just doing Agile.

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Chef vs. recipe book approach for managing product development

The chef and recipe book metaphors were originated from the work of Prof. David Snowden on Complexity Theory.

Recipe book approach suggests the implementation of specific frameworks to achieve the value from certain practice (Agile). This will require the organization to re-engineer (or transform) itself, at its own cost, so that those frameworks can be implemented.

On the contrary, Chef based approach does not dictate pre-configured set-up as pre-requisite to achieve the value from implementing the practice. Instead, the chef uses whatever is there to create valuable implementation of the desired practice. The value the chef delivers allows organizations to evolve and thus gradually restructure as they become motivated by implementation gains. Specifically, the chef understands how to deal with unusual scenarios which can happen when conditions change. This is because the chef has developed knowledge over years of implementation and following instructions.

Advocating Inspect and Adapt without understanding these two approaches cannot help. In absence of a chef, Inspect can lead to superficial improvement suggestion which can produce mediocre outcome from Adaptation.

The chef approach leads to evolution of the system to new states which cannot be defined up-front. The chef has the ability to guide teams (Inspect) so that they can come up with options implementable by them (Adapt).

A good agile coach implements a Chef based approach. He can help the team and system to interact together so that they can evolve to a target state which is being shaped as we go. The agile coach can help to introduce the mind-set of conducting fail-to-safe experiments by the team, so that it can probe a direction for improvement. Probing the direction can lead to sensing what approach to follow.

In contrary relying only on recipe book (for example, strict implementation of Scrum events and roles) will require pre-configuring the organization roles and teams to fit into cookie-cutter structure to achieve the up-front defined future state. In this mode we can only expect reaching this target state with no real value. For that reason, recipe book approach deprives the organization from improvement opportunities which can happen if it embraces uncertainty and experimentation.

Characterizing product development in light of Complexity Theory

Prof. David Snowden created the Cynefin framework to characterize various domains or systems. Understanding the characteristics of a domain can help us to not only gain understanding on its intricacies but also to establish suitable approach to manage it.

Prof. Snowden- Practice without sound theory will not scale

In my view product development fits into Complex domain (non-ordered system) since it assumes the following characteristics.

There is no repeated relationship between Cause and Effect.

This is because every product is unique and has to bring new features to the end user. In other words, repetition in product development  is against bringing innovative ideas. Specially, instead of controlling variation, we embrace uncertainty because it is our opportunity for discovering new features. Generally, retrospective in Complex domains can help us understand what happened in the past but these insights can not allow us in predicting the future. Continue reading