Getting to Agile

black_green_black_thin_2Author: Howard Frost

In the current US presidential primary elections there are candidates from both the far left and the far right who have taken very absolute positions on sensitive issues. However, it seems unlikely this will be the year the US votes for a revolutionary shift in policy.

Voters are digesting a mix of good news (improved job market, low inflation and gas prices, rising stock prices) and bad new (ISIS, gridlock in Washington, income inequality). The country has not made any great strides forward or fallen off any cliffs – we seem to be muddling along. Why make radical changes under these conditions?

The same thinking can be applied to large multinationals. Unless they sense an existential threat there is little appetite to make the kind of radical top to bottom changes called for by Agile. Instead these companies see Agile as a tool primarily meant for organizing software development teams.

Will a partial, imperfect adoption of Agile principals benefit a company or only provide cover for existing dysfunctions?

I have seen better software emerge when Scrum teams are formed and aligned to a Product Owner. There is more transparency around the progress and health of the project, communication between technology and business improves, people feel less isolated, and there is far more learning taking place.

Changing hierarchical decision making, organizing a company around long term quality rather than metrics and milestones, and adopting people policies that value teamwork and expertise is more difficult to achieve. I believe external competitive pressure will eventually require companies to address these core issues. In the short-term, the pressure Agile areas of company impose on the rest of the organization will continue to shine a light on these larger issues and help educate and prepare the company for the more fundamental core changes to come.

What do you think?