Business agility

Agile is not new!

Although if you listen to many current business leaders it is the latest in innovative thinking that will save the world and their business. They are partially right, but it’s not new.

Agile was “born” in early 2001 at a small gathering of software development pioneers in Utah. Out of this gathering came the Agile Manifesto. (In fact, as I write this post that manifesto is now 18 years old, almost a generation ago.)

Agile Manifesto

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Agile in business

A couple of weeks ago I attended 1st Conference all about enabling Organisational Agility in 2018. Overall an awesome conference that got my mind thinking – always the sign of a great event.

For those that don’t know Agile software development is a change-based delivery methodology. From this perspective there are many ways to do agile:


For business, agility is about responding the change in a whole of business perspective. Sounds easy, not so.

To reuse from Sharon Robson‘s presentation agile is:

  • Customer-centric
  • Focus on Value
  • Visibility
  • Transparent
  • Collaborative
  • Team work
  • Flexible/Adaptive
  • Reflective
  • Learning
  • Improvement

All good things for business, but very hard to do in practice.

Many of the speakers highlighted that today business is very focused on the “how” of agile but not the “why” or Kokoro of agile. They are stuck in the Shu of Shu Ha Ri and not moving through the various stages of mastery.

Having been an admirer of agile for the better part of a decade I’m hoping to write a bit more about agile over the coming month. Maybe I’ll explore some of my more recent experiences and flesh out some more thoughts – like agile performance management.

Agile talent management software – Your survival plan?

I read with interest this morning Dr John Sullivan’s article looking at how to survive in such turbulent economic times, his concept seems to be a play on the software development process Agile. To quote Wikipedia Agile software development is:

Agile software development refers to a group of software development methodologies based on iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams.

I am very interested in John’s views next week as he shows us some of the attributes he sees within an agile talent management strategy. In the meantime let me provide some of my own thoughts.

Last month I sat through a demonstration of a top end talent management system that ticked all of the boxes from a feature set, which as a buyer of software is important. However during the whole presentation I could not help but think “wow this would require a large structured project to implement in even the smallest of organisations”.  To start with a massive project would be required around defining competency frameworks, then career paths, development plans, capturing employee information, etc. Ongoing the process of ensuring performance management information is collected, development plans are kept up to date, compensation plans managed would overload many an HR department.

Most systems and their vendors today still follow something that closely resembles the waterfall model of software development. Again from Wikipedia:

The waterfall model is the most structured of the methods, stepping through requirements-capture, analysis, design, coding, and testing in a strict, pre-planned sequence. Progress is generally measured in terms of deliverable artifacts: requirement specifications, design documents, test plans, code reviews and the like.

Where as agile processes produce completely developed and tested features every few weeks. Today the consumer web is a very fast moving and dynamic environment that can change almost overnight, for example 18 months ago MySpace was the place to be, now it is Facebook. This has lead to most consumer focused web development teams, and some corporate, to use agile processes to quickly deliver new features to their customers. To this end a host of light weight tools have entered the market to help support these teams, for example Pivotal Tracker and Agile Zen.

Today most corporate IT environments are the exact opposite to agile. They have enormous governance models designed to stop “cowboy software development” and ensure that all stakeholders, including the board, internal customers, and in particular departments such as finance, have the necessary input into the decision making process. These governance processes have been required due to the complexity created within an organisation’s IT environment from years and years of short term planning and projects where only “phase one” has ever been deployed. Ok yes there are exceptions I admit, but ask the employees of most organisations what it is like working with their IT team and they will roll their eyes at you.

Enter Agile.

Just as Dr John Sullivan is suggesting you bring agile practices into your talent management strategies, how about you bring them into your software projects as well?

Things to extreme, including interviews

Today is day 3 or 4 of the heatwave here in Melbourne, by heatwave over 40 degrees Celsius, up to 44 a couple of times (that is 104 & 112 Fahrenheit respectively), things are a bit extreme at the moment.

To match the extreme weather it is time to learn about Extreme Interviewing.

Extreme Interviewing is a method created by the folks at Menlo Innovations, specifically Richard Sheridan and Lisamarie Babik. The idea is that traditional interview techniques do not match the culture of Agile programming environments. Agile programming is the new cool developer term for getting things done fast. Actually it is more than that it is about building the right tools for the right customers with the customers and delivery tends to be very fast.

At its core Extreme Interviewing is about matching the candidate with the organisational culture. This is done by taking candidate through a process where they have to work together and are evaluated on collaboration, and cultural fit first, then technical skills. You can read a great interview of Richard and Lisamarie on CIO where they discuss what Extreme Interviewing is all about. 

More information is also available on the Menlo Innovations web site.