Interview – Agile Organisations
As Xplicity has profound experience with Agile framework, we understand the tremendous importance of Agile concept in the IT industry. Although the Agile Manifesto was written already 15 years ago it is still greatly relevant today. Therefore we used the chance to ask few questions about Agile and Scrum frameworks to Scrum expert from Login VSI– Matthijs de Booij.
In this, first part, we talk about the Agile concept itself, it’s future and implementation in organisations. The second one will be posted next week and will cover questions and answers about being a Scrum Master, Product Owner and Agile teams in general.
The scrum guide states:
„Scrum (n): A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.“
Is it possible to reach this perfection?
I would refer to this as a perfection challenge. Perfection is not sustainable because everything around us keeps constantly changing. Something that seems perfect today may not be anymore tomorrow. So this actually is a never ending quest: continuous improvement.
How to know that a company is ready to become agile? Is it an organic process or something that has to be implemented by someone?
It’s impossible to implement change in human behavior. There is no button for that, unfortunately. I think that when you want to transform the way an organisation thinks and behaves, the whole organisation has to be willing to take part in it.
If you want to initiate such a business transformation, it starts by creating awareness that there are different ways of working. And for starters, this awareness has to be created at least within the top management and within the teams that do the actual development of the product. From there it becomes possible to apply the new way of thinking and working on to a product or project. Once you have a success story it becomes easier to get more support throughout the organisation but everything depends on the company, the environment in which it operates, the company culture, and the people. It takes a lot of listening, talking, education and coaching.
Is there any other future management strategy projected? What could be after agile?
It’s hard to look further than you can see. I think that adapting to change is part of life. Charles Darwin already discovered this a long time ago. In that sense, business agility will become one of the most important strategic advantages for any enterprise that works in a competitive environment. I do expect that the Agile mindset will become a more dominant enterprise mindset. There are many Management Teams out there that still have a classical management mindset where everything has to be planned up front, responsibilities are centralized, organisation units are based on specialization, and where most decisions are made from a hierarchical top layer. I think enterprises will evolve into more organic structures that change whenever required. There already are organisations putting this into practice. Frederic Laloux studied these organisations and wrote a great book about it I can highly recommend: Reinventing Organizations.
What did you find the most difficult when you first started as a ScrumMaster?
In hindsight, I guess it’s when to speak and when not to speak within a Scrum Team. As a ScrumMaster you don’t want to undermine the responsibility the team has for both the quality of the product they develop and the processes they use to collaborate. This would have a negative impact on the willingness of the team to self-manage itself.
When I notice something and I feel the urge to speak, I count to ten and reflect whether the remark I want to make actually helps the team and would be productive or if it’s just something I want to get off my chest. There’s a good chance that before the 10 seconds are over, a team member already has pointed out what I was about to mention. If not, I would still consider if this is the right moment to speak up or if there might be a better learning opportunity coming up in the near future. For example, when something goes wrong or when the team itself raises the topic. It takes experience to identify these learning opportunities. When you do, it will help to improve your understanding of how and when to interact with your team.
What is a high performing team?
This is a very subjective matter. It’s often used to identify the gap between the current effectiveness of a team and the potential to grow. I see it as a strategic intent, to challenge the team to always keep improving.
Can you tell from your own experience what stages do teams go through as they learn to be agile?
During my Scrum training I learned about the different stages of learning from the martial arts of Aikido. In my daily work with teams I still recognize these stages:
In this phase the student focuses on copying the techniques without yet attempting to make any effort to understand the rationale of the techniques of the school/teacher.
In this phase the student must reflect on the meaning and purpose of everything that (s)he has learned and thus come to a deeper understanding of the art than pure repetitive practice can allow.
In this phase the student is no longer a student but a practitioner. The art truly becomes the practitioner’s own
Of course this can only be applied when there is a master around to teach, mentor and coach.
What is the biggest mistake a Product Owner could make within an agile environment?
That’s a difficult question since there are many things a Product Owner is supposed to do that have a major impact on the product being developed and the people that are working on it. Although I would sum up 3 common pitfalls of a Product Owner:
- Lack of collaboration with the users of the product
If you don’t know your end users well enough you will never know what to do first and you are likely to waste a lot of money on useless features
- Not listening to advice and feedback from the development team(s)
A Product Owner not only needs to know the business side of the product but as well the technical implications of the decisions he or she is going to make. These insights can only be provided by the development teams.
- Not saying “no” enough
I will quote one of principles behind the Agile Manifesto:
“Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.”
If you figure out what matters most then you are able to figure out what doesn’t need to be done. This is where unnecessary work can be eliminated and the most money can be saved.