Agility means, to me, the ability to bend and flex with the changing environment – to react quickly to whatever the current landscape demands.
Sometimes I feel very lonely when I keep saying “Agile is not about more widgets, faster”. The unspoken reply that hangs thick in the fluorescent-lit air is “well then why are we paying all this money to be agile?”
Agile doesn’t make people work faster. It makes work more productive partly by reducing waste – doing the most valuable things first, constantly looking for things to cut or improve, finding and fixing inefficiencies – but also by creating a discipline around “the smallest increment that will work”. A great way to extract more value out of the limited time and budget you have is to look for simpler solutions.
But too often, we are locked into doing certain things a certain way. This can be especially confusing when we have a Product Owner who ‘knows just enough to be dangerous’ – perhaps from prior experience, they know enough about how things got built in the past to be able to suggest solutions or technologies or even practices. It’s mostly well-intended stuff, but it also carries a certain weight if it comes from a PO – so much weight that the team often won’t think to question it.
So when we get into situations where we are running late or short of money – and as you know, we always do – our instinct is to panic and press people to work harder or faster, or perhaps we try to apply more or different people to the same problem and same ways of working, or worse, we begin cutting corners, in the hope that we can just sneak the finished product under the door in time.
But too frequently we fail to ask “what else might work”? To be truly agile, we have to be able to let go of how we thing things ought to go and look for any and all other solutions that will get the job done. This doesn’t mean a compromised solution, by the way. A team needs to stick to their Definitions of Done, their quality standards, their test cases and their acceptance criteria.
But there’s almost always more than one way to get there.