Tag Archives: culture

Thoughts on Agile 2011 – Culture Matters

This year was my first visit to Agile 2011 and I came home with a suitcase full of learning to go along with the suitcase full of vendor handouts. I think the conference organizers did a fantastic job. The location and facility was great and accommodated many hallway conversations, especially in Coach’s Corner (thx Mark Levison for setting that up) and the Open Jam area. I also want to thank the volunteers, particularly Charlotte who was the volunteer in my session. She gave me some feedback during my session that I was able to use right away which was awesome.

I managed to go to a few sessions and spent most of the time in the hallways and Coach’s Corner. I love talking to people to see how they’ve implemented Agile, what challenges they’ve had and how they over-come them. I was super-excited to finally meet Lisa Crispin as we have been trading tweets for the last year or so!

My boss asked me yesterday what my one take-away was. After the first day attending Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory’s session titled ‘Yeehaw, we’re Agile testers, now what?‘ and David Hussman’s and Tim McCoy’s session titled ‘Integrated Product Development‘, my takeaway was clear. Continue reading

Your Agile Isn’t My Agile

I’ve been wondering for quite some time about just what exactly is Agile.  I’ve been a team member on Agile teams and a consultant (call that an agile coach or consultant…it’s the same thing to me) and worked in small to medium-sized to enterprise-sized companies.

As have many others, I’ve seen different interpretations of what Agile means to different people in different environments.   From my experience, people generally consider Agile to be a ‘state of mind’, a particular practice or a set of practices.  I worked with a team in the past that considered themselves to be ‘very Agile’.  They were Agile enough to have a 4 day sprint after a 2 week sprint because all the work couldn’t get done in time.   I’ve worked with teams that had development and testing sprints.  I’ve worked with teams that had programmers that would account for re-working bad code in any story that was going to require changes in those areas.

Does that describe what Agile is?

I dunno.

The interesting part of those 3 stories is that the environments and culture created those versions of Agile, for the lack of a better phrase.  The 1st team that couldn’t seem to finish work in any sprint thought they were really Agile.  They thought this because there was no impact to missing the sprint commitment.  It didn’t really matter when the work was done or when it was released.  Using ‘sprints’ was just a way to break the work into 2 week chunks.  I’d call that iterative, not Agile.

The 2nd team I mentioned was in a larger company with very strong functional silos that were stronger than the team itself.  Some call that ‘mini waterfall’.  I don’t know what I’d call it other than that was the best these guys could do at that particular time.

The last team I mentioned was one of the best teams I ever worked with.  They all got along well, they all understood the application from a technical perspective and a user perspective and most importantly, they gave a damn.  They were a passionate group of people who challenged each other and just liked doing what they were doing despite the constraints they had as a result of their environment.

So is Agile a state of mind?  A single practice? A set of practices?  A couple of years ago I wrote a post about how I learned organization culture is the most important aspect of becoming Agile.  That seems to still ring true for me.

To me, Agile is like the old Lexus slogan from the 90’s.  “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection”.  I went to the Toronto Agile open space this past weekend.  That’s what Agile is all about.  People giving up their free time and time with family and friends to share ideas and learn about something.  There’s something special about these people.  There’s something intrinsic that drives these people to be better.

You can’t package that up and install it into an organization.  You can, however, package up and install a set of tools and practices into an organization.

My Agile is the former, yours may be the latter.  And that’s ok.  Just be aware of what you and your organization is capable of and choose your Agile adoption path to align with your culture and values.

Are We Forgetting About Succeeding?

I had a great conversation with a colleague the other day about how “agile ain’t what it used to be” (fodder for another post)  and recently it seems like I spend a great deal of time either replying to people or having conversations about the proper use of “methodology or practice X“.

Technically I’m on vacation and since I don’t really consider what I do a ‘job‘ (read: I love what I do), I’ve been catching up on email, forums and other conversations on Linked In.

Is the Agile community sending the wrong message?  Do people just not get it? Why does it seem there is this overwhelming need for something to give the gold stamp?  Are Agile values and principles at odds with fundamentally how the humans behave?

Dramatic?  Maybe. Continue reading