Being Agile Must Include Everyone

July 25, 2012

Agility in software development will only get you so far, particularly if an agile team exists in the midst of a non-agile organization. The surrounding system and the expectations of that system will exert a tremendous amount of pull back towards old ways of thinking and working, and even the best agile teams will be challenged to thrive under these conditions.

Most organizations today are systems-heavy, with a great deal of effort and focus on systems designed to direct and monitor activities in an effort to keep everything strictly planned and everyone “under control” and working towards the plan. Unfortunately, working the plan with the requisite reporting and approvals required in control-oriented systems negate that adaptability and rapid response to changing business conditions that organizations desire.

Are Your "Efficiencies" Creating Inefficiencies?

July 18, 2012

This week, I thought I would direct you towards an interesting post by Dan Cristo: How to Build a Company that Outlasts a City. Lesson 4 makes a great point that I would like to expand upon, and that is “Companies…tend to make employees less productive as they grow larger.”

As Dan points out, the drop in productivity is a result of organizational structures becoming too hierarchal. And he’s right. Many are. Dan observes that when we encounter structures that are too hierarchal, “Creativity and innovation are slowed down by risk assessments and business justifications. Information has trouble passing between different departments which creates confusion and rework.”

Even if you didn’t take the time to read his post, the title gives away his solution. “The key is to build your company like a city. Groups should function like little shops on the street where an employee can visit one group, then walk across the aisle to stop by another group.”

But doesn’t this create inefficiencies?

An Example of Winning Through Commitment vs Planning

July 11, 2012

Imagine that you have been asked to join a company as the CEO, a company that is losing customers to a rival firm. And it is your job to turn the tide. What would you do?

Dr. Jan Wallander found himself in this very position with Swedish bank Svenska Handelsbanken. He was invited to become CEO of the bank because he was the one running the smaller, rival bank that was winning customers from Svenska Handelsbanken. Wallander did in fact turn the bank around, and it managed to outperform its competition on a number of key measures including customer satisfaction and earnings per share.

Wallander achieved this by discarding the traditional management model that is designed for leaders to plan and control organizations from a corporate center. Wallander understood that front-line managers were more than capable of running the business – and in fact were more qualified to understand the needs of the customers and how to profitably meet those needs than those in more isolated corporate positions.

A Few Good Manifestos

July 4, 2012

Since this is the 4th of July – a holiday known as Independence Day for those of us in the United States – I thought it would be fun to look at a few manifestos other than the United States Declaration of Independence, which is a political manifesto…

According to Wikipedia, a manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions. The first few manifestos referenced in this post represent good intentions, with the goal of improving our present state. The last two represent what can go wrong, using satire to make a point.

Among the software community, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (a.k.a., The Agile Manifesto) has gained significant prominence, and rightly so. Since I whole-heartedly support the manifestos I’m referencing, I took the time to do something that I’ve been remiss about, and that is to become a signatory of these manifestos. (Have you taken then time to do the same? If not, do so while you read!)