The Agile Manifesto is not the 10 commandments, it’s principles; much like 50 shades of kid’s parties…. what?

Software development is essentially a creative process requiring far more social psychology than many development methodologies allow for, even Agile ones. Some thought leaders argue that Agile software projects are like complex adaptive systems (CAS); related agents interacting in an environment of continually changing conditions. These are common in nature – evolutionary patterns of species demonstrate how the learning process improves the designs of successive generations. [paragraph 1 of 5]

As an IT leader if you want to become more Agile (capital “A”) in the way you deliver software projects, then you need to be agile (small “a”) in the way you change the environment. On a recent project we introduced story points as one aspect of our Agile adoption journey; our aim was to standardise the estimating process and improve feedback to the product owner. This didn’t work and so we dropped it (quickly) and went back to agreeing scope per release; on the other hand I’ve written previously about how the concept of a sprint was relatively easy to introduce. [2/5]

Large organisations have established ways of getting things done; a theoretically better way is not always practically better. In my talk at Scrum Alliance 2015 I spoke about living in the grey (50 shades of it) and how important it is to “be flexible, negotiate and try not to take a strong position”. Over-evangelising with methodological jargon will destroy value and turn people against the highly valuable and very simply worded, common sense principles of the Agile Manifesto; a huge loss to your IT leadership credibility. [3/5]

In this brilliant video, Dave Snowden uses a children’s party to explain how you achieve success in complex adaptive systems. He contrasts this with both chaotic and ordered (children’s party) systems; neither of these models adequately describe the macro-environments of real-world software projects. The video is a very quick introductory study of CAS theory (if you are interested) but the comparison of complex systems with being agile to achieve Agile is well made; and if you are a parent you might get some useful ideas! [4/5]

However, never lose the vision and never lose the passion; it shouldn’t be all-or-nothing, but it’s also not now-or-never. I’ve written previously about taking people with you on such journeys, your willingness to adapt to their pace coupled with quiet, durable determination will ensure your ultimate success. Actually, this is also good advice for any parent facing an afternoon with a bunch of 13 year olds; perhaps software projects aren’t that different from children’s parties? [5/5]

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