Agile does not equate directly to Scrum, Kanban or DevOps. Those are just methodologies that follow some Agile principles. Agile does not mean ‘Software Development’, ‘Innovation’ or ‘Technology’. Those are just Sectors and processes to which Agile is adopted (and, to be fair, well suited). While the Agile Manifesto is about software development, Agile as a concept is not limited to that sector.
Agile is a mindset. It encompasses some relatively simple concepts that are usually then complicated and clouded by different implementations, opinions, interpretations and misunderstandings, but at its heart it is a simple overarching principle: make the most valuable thing the next thing you do / use / make / decide.
There are thousands of questions driven by that one simple idea (“What does ‘valuable’ mean?” is the most obvious and difficult of them), and even more answers / opinions, but if you keep that simple idea in mind as a guiding principle you should always be more Agile than not.
Everything in Agile, starting from the Agile Principles, is aimed at making the next most valuable or useful thing available at the earliest opportunity.
The famous ‘Agile Manifesto’ states that Agilists value some things more than some other things (note: this does not mean ‘instead of’, or ‘to the exclusion of’, it just means ‘more than’).
For example, Agilists prefer collaborating with customers and users to adapt and adjust what we’re delivering based on feedback, more than (but not to the exclusion of) having scope and costs. We also prefer changing direction when we realise we’re no longer on track, rather than sticking to a plan that will keep us on time and on budget… but ending up at the wrong place.
The stated ‘best practise’ of Scrum-flavoured Agile software development (and therefore the target state of many transitioning environments) is a self-organising, cross-functional collection of individual resources capable of delivering whatever they agree to deliver, within a time window and within the resources (including skills) they have available to them, along with someone to coordinate and facilitate their activities and someone to ensure they are working on the next most useful bits of work. All very fine and all generally very achievable. We see this setup everywhere.
In many Agile software development environments, there comes a time when the Team needs the input of specific knowledge, skills or expertise which is otherwise not normally part of the Team.
Agile concepts have permeated a wide variety of Business domains and Sectors for at least 80 years, making a first high-profile appearance in the 1940s when Toyota implemented a Kanban-based workflow planning system to increase efficiency and – in particular – to reduce delays caused by bottlenecks in multi-step manufacturing processes.
In the last 30 years, Agile software development techniques and methodologies have made their way into the mainstream. More recently, even the biggest and most hierarchical organisations in both Corporate and Government sectors have begun to adapt Agile techniques to a wide variety of processes – including outside the obvious Manufacturing and Software Development candidate areas.
One of the most recent – and perhaps the most outwardly unsuitable – area where Agile principles and techniques are being applied is the area of Product Innovation. Kanban, Lean and JIT processes are ideally suited to predictable, repeatable processes like Manufacturing. Product innovation is anything but predictable or repeatable.
In a recent Documentary on RTÉ TV (the Irish national broadcaster) about Annacarty Barracks and its central role in the Irish path to freedom & independence, Mick Dromm (at least, I think that was his name!), who was one of the primary Archaeologists on the Project, said:
“As a nation, as a people, we are mature enough to be OK with the complexities in our identity”
Now, while that quote relates specifically to the complexity in the modern Irish national identity, it did start me thinking about the whole concept of complexities in our individual personal identities. Every one of us is a unique combination of the different identities we portray to the outside world, to our friends & families, to our work colleagues, to our Customers & Clients, to our most intimate personal connections and – frankly – even to ourselves.
Enough of the Philosophy and Psychology, though: what does this have to do with Digital anything, Online anything or even Business Analysis…?
This is an updated version (given the huge explosion in the numbers of people working from home in 2020 as a result of COVID19 / Coronavirus and the likelihood that this will accelerate the Work From Home transition) of a Blog Post published originally in 2015.
Warning: this is a looonnnnggg post so please excercise due discretion – or read it in your spare time! I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble for reading it in work, especially while pretending to pay attention on a Conference Call… although you could at least argue that it has some learning value 😉
At this stage in the evolution of business technology, virtual meetings are an integral part of the day-to-day activities of a huge number of Organisations and work forces. Many Organisations would simply not be able to continue to exist (or would need to adapt radically) if virtual meetings were no longer possible [imagine… this sentence was originally written back in 2015… I should have just predicted the Lottery numbers].
First, to get you in the right frame of mind, this video will give you a giggle if you’ve attended many virtual meetings… but don’t forget to read on afterwards..!
At least the technology (whether video or voice-only) is better than it was way back when multi-location meetings started to become common. I agree that they are not as easy (or as productive, for some types of activities) as face-to-face meetings, especially when it comes to non-verbal considerations like body language, attempts to contribute, lack of participation etc. However, virtual meetings could also be better, especially when they involve remote / offshore participants.
Unfortunately, as with the evolution of any form of communication, when generations of workers become accustomed to virtual meetings (and may not have much experience of real-world, face-to-face group meeting & workshops), there is a very good chance that they will have developed some bad habits when participating in virtual meetings (usually by copying colleagues’ habits). Given that we are now at the point in the evolution of virtual meetings where multiple generations of modern participants have grown up without ever having any real experience of face-to-face, in-person meetings, current and (increasingly) future generations are unlikely to develop the right etiquette for participating in group meetings unless they are explicitly or implicitly taught them and required (by procedures as well as by example) to behave appropriately.
I deal with Recruiters a lot. Some of my best friends are Recruiters. Well, maybe not, but as a Contractor that changes jobs, Clients and even Sectors every five minutes or so, I rely on Recruiters. Andthey rely on people like me too. So I tend to get on reasonably well with them. Even when there might not appear to be a mutually-beneficial deal on the immediate horizon, the chances are we’ll be discussing something at some point in the future.
I even partnered up with a Recruiter (who originally contacted me about a role I wasn’t ultimately interested in) to set up a Motor Racing Team and have previously posted an article that might be of interest to Recruiters to understand what we (or I, at least) expect from the collaboration (“In response to all the ‘advice’ from Recruiters…”).
So, it’s not as if I’m one of those potential candidates who dislikes being contacted out of the blue by a Recruiter. It happens maybe 30 times a week and I accept its part of my ‘ways of working’. Even if I’m not interested (or available), I usually just ask for details so I can review them in case one or other of my peers might be a suitable match. But, occasionally, a Recruiter comes along with an air of such self-importance or with such an anti-collaborative ‘F**k you” attitude that it just makes me smile.
Below is the thread of a recent conversation with one such individual. After this, I did 5 minutes of research online and discovered that the Recruiter below (let’s call him David… because that’s his name but I’m not including his 2nd name!) appears to be a one-man-operation, based in Ireland – a small Country in terms of interpersonal and Business networks – and not even based in one of the major towns or cities that Recruiters mostly frequent. It’s worth bearing in mind that ‘David’ is a real person, trying to forge a career for himself as a Recruiter… and that we Contractors often exchange notes on the Recruiters we’ve dealt with…
I decided to look into setting up an amateur motor racing team in the Spring of 2018. It’s something I always wanted to do but I always thought it would be very expensive. I’ve previously setup a football club and a few different business & it’s always the “behind the scenes” stuff that interests me most.
When I discovered that a contact of mine (JB Farrell) always wanted to try Motor Racing as a driver, we agreed to look into it.
Many of my friends, family and contacts will already know how I feel about surreptitious digitized ‘spying’ by website and App providers (who call it something else and say they only track your behaviour for ‘personalisation’, of course). I’ve been known to rant about ‘sneaky tracking’ ever since it became possible to identify people (by their Internet-connected devices) and connect all of their individual ‘dots’ together to monitor pretty much everything they do, predict what they’ll do in predefined situations and, of course, sell that data to 3rd parties, often without telling you openly and clearly. These ‘Cookie Monsters’ make my blood boil…
The implementation of GDPR in 2018 tilted the balance slightly more in favour of the Consumer (that means you). I spent about year as a specialist GDPR Consultant Business Analyst for some large Public and Private entities and most are openly keen to comply and to make sure they don’t infringe on your rights.
However, even the potentially Company-busting penalties possible under GDPR don’t make the problem go away for a variety of different reasons:
Some providers don’t pay much attention to GDPR, to be honest, because it can’t “hurt” them for one reason or another – usually because of jurisdiction, limited enforcement resourcing, and the sheer scale of the problem (thousands of providers with millions of pages tracking billions of interactions every day).
Some providers comply with GDPR to the smallest extent possible (the MCP or ‘Minimum Compliant Product’ approach).
Some providers don’t actually know, even at this stage, whether they are GDPR-compliant with regard to your data, security & privacy.
Of course, the biggest problem in all of this is us: the consumers. Put simply, we allow providers to behave like this. The ubiquitous, impatient “Accept, Agree and Install” mindset that we have when accessing websites, Social Media platforms or Apps means that sneaky providers know they can simply get you to ‘actively, explicitly’ permit them to track you by requiring you to click more than one button to prevent it! They know you would rather accept (or ignore) the risk than have to click another button or (worse!) actually read something about your rights or their policies!
No, seriously, I do. It’s called CiCoDa Racing and it’s very entry-level, very unglamourous and very affordable. We race in the Formula Vee championship (#FormulaVeeIRL). I set it up this year with the help of JB Farrell (who will be driving) and Gary Baitson (who, like me, won’t be driving!).
Why did I do such a silly thing (other than that my earlier mid-life crisis of owning a Mazda MX5 wasn’t a proper mid-life crisis)…? Well… Read More »
Over the last 10+ years as a Business Analyst, Product Owner & Product Manager in a wide variety of teams, environments, sectors & projects – and, indeed, as a Customer overseeing my own Product development (see flowdaq if you’re interested in that) – it has become clear that Agile philosophies, concepts and techniques do actually work – at least, when appropriately adapted to the circumstances. However, it is also clear that Agile does not suit some scenarios or some projects. Project professionals (hopefully) adapt the Agile techniques that work for their scenario or project and omit those that don’t.
More importantly, however, Agile does not suit some people. Unfortunately, it is often not possible to adapt people who Agile is suited to, or even to ask unsuitable people to adapt Agile ways of working.