Agile focus

by Andrew on May 13, 2011

I’ve come to realise why I am interested in agile software development and project management. It’s because I think organisations need to change and I have a vision of what they might look like in the future. This morning I’ve been reading about and listening to presentations on the purpos/ed site, a new movement started by Andy Stewart and Doug Belshaw. In a short space of time they’ve captured the imagination of people that share a passion for defining, changing and challenging what education is. It’s inspiring to see this and the same passion exists in the agile community, but what are we focussing that energy on?

It’s easy to get side-tracked where that passion is directed at the agile method you use or champion. I’ve realised I don’t care about Scrum, what I do care about is helping teams find the best way to build great products and services. More than that, being part of building them. Not just managing the process. A big part of this is making sure the wider organisation works in a way that supports their teams. This seems obvious but my general observation is that while most organisations talk about this rarely do they care about it.

I’ve used the ‘experience pain to force change’ approach to get new ideas in place but this clearly isn’t as powerful as getting a whole organisation buzzing about what it does and how it can do it better. It’s hugely important that leaders at every level of an organisation create that buzz. Just adopting Scrum or XP doesn’t achieve this and similarly a community focused on those methods won’t change organisations. Still no silver bullets then.

Looking at the success of ‘purpose/ed’ has made me understand that we need to ask why and how we are building products or organisations. We can then ask how it we can do it differently or better. That’s something everyone can get involved in and be passionate about.



Without meaning to be *too* pedantic, I would say delivery is more important than the building (although you probably meant this) – and how can you create the buzz? It’s important for leaders to be encouraging about your product, but internal-only buzz just means you have leaders who have no idea how their product is actually being perceived. Surely far better to ask, generate or collect feedback from real users? Hopefully that would be a much better motivator.

For me, I get my inspiration and buzz from startups. Motivated teams of two, three and four can create world-famous applications. There is absolutely nothing stopping anyone else doing the same.

by Phil Wilson on May 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm. #

Cheers Phil. You’re right to make the distinction between building and delivery, but yes I mean getting the product in front of users.

I agree about real feedback being the best motivator. I would say to some degree it falls to leaders/management to understand the value of this and give teams the time to collect this feedback. Too often it’s on to the next feature or project.

What do you want to build? I’ve got a bunch of ideas :)

by Andrew on May 13, 2011 at 9:10 pm. #

I was on drafting a post based on our conversation and then came across this which puts what I wanted to say extremely well.

by Andy Stewart on May 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm. #

Thanks for the link. This seems to be a growing answer to how large organisations can transition to agile approaches. We touched upon agile decision making when we spoke and I want to find out how these merged approaches still provide that capability.

I did a double take when I visited your blog. I seem to have managed to pick the same theme as you when updating it today!

by Andrew on May 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm. #

In relation to your “silver bullet” line, I think all project management techniques are capable of being cargo cults.

I assume the theory is that the value of rapid delivery for most companies should be rapid customer feedback – highlighting what generates the most revenue/interest or some other goal-meeting metric and thus whether the product is actually viable (and if not, pivot).

Re-reading your post, I guess I don’t really understand how you think organisations should change. It seems to be veering rapidly into business management rather than product management – again, more like that startup mentality I mentioned!

What am I doing? I am building things to help me out with my Kindle addiction ;)

by Phil Wilson on May 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm. #

I’m going to post my thoughts on how I think orgs can change to support product delivery.

In my mind I can’t separate the two. In larger organisations business organisation can dictate or limit how the product is delivered. I guess that’s the advantage of a startup. They only have to worry about building a viable product.

Large organisations always seem to be trying to capture that startup feeling. It will be interesting to see what develops with Larry Page as CEO at Google.

by Andrew on May 16, 2011 at 8:36 am. #

FWIW I think purpos/ed reflects a larger trend in the Western world to reconsider how education works – the recent stuff by Peter Thiel about the education bubble and the continuing rise and rise of The Khan Academy are far more likely to be the causes of broader action or instigators of change.

There is always a minority group who wants to talk about change. These people are doing it.

by Phil Wilson on June 8, 2011 at 9:27 pm. #

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