Pattern languages can help us understand complex systems. Read how pattern languages work, and how you can write your own. We are defining agility and its practices using a pattern language called the Agile Canon. Using the first five patterns in the Agile Canon, you can diagnose whether your team is agile, whether it can keep its agility, and whether it expands agility beyond the team’s boundaries.
Author: Dan Greening
Dan Greening is a serial entrepreneur working on his fourth startup, where he leads implementation of two agile practices, Lean Startup and Scrum. Between the third and fourth startup, he was the lead agile coach for Citrix Online, Skype, Overstock, and other companies. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UCLA. He is a Certified Enterprise Coach with the Scrum Alliance, and a Scrum@Scale Trainer. He has published innovative work on agile management, parallel processing, and chaotic systems.
Experiment to Improve
Context: Plenty of data informs us. We can forecast when things will happen. Our progress metrics are aligned with long term goals. But externalities impede our progress: competitors emerge, delays harm us. We are passive victims of outside circumstance.
Reacting to events can be too late …
We suspect unknown dangers, economic loss, and growing ineffectiveness. Our friends reassure us, choosing their words carefully. Existing data is eerily stable. We aren’t learning anything new.
Agile Supply Chains Take the Lead
Dustin Mattison interviewed me on how one could apply agile principles to supply chain management. The interview shows how to map Agile Base Patterns to a non-software field.
You can listen to the podcast here: The Five Characteristics of Sustainable Agile Methods, from the Future of Supply Chains blog.
Context: It takes us time to decide to fix problems, and we let some problems fester because we don’t want to get anywhere near them. When we are on a team, we can blame someone or something else for a problem, and often do. We might blame our own permanent flaws for a problem, feeling guilty. None of this blaming seems to fix anything, but we stick to our comfort zone. Pitching in to fix problems can associate us with the problem and put us in danger. It might be a tar baby.
We leave key problems unresolved…
We are responsible for an outcome if our action or inaction affected it. People assert we are “responsible for a failure,” if we could have prevented it. We assert we were “not responsible for a failure,” if we were not authorized or equipped to prevent the problem that caused the failure. People characterize us as “a responsible person” if we act to prevent or recover from failures.
Social Cause Mapping
Context: We can study others who succeed, imitate their activities and gain their skills. But these activities create nothing new. Once we have reached their capabilities, how do we know if we’ve improved?
Long-term metrics provide poor short-term guidance …
Creative efforts operate in an economy, a system where people manage limited resources to maximize return and growth. Economies drive everything. They need not involve currency. We can measure philanthropic efforts by the number of lives saved per unit of volunteer effort. We can measure companies by price-earnings ratio, market share, civic contributions, employee welfare, or religious conviction. We can measure artists by profit per work hour, the number of event attendees, the number of references on a social network, the devotion of fans, the artist’s technical improvement, the artist’s personal satisfaction, or the political effect of the artist’s message.
Join Dan Greening for a conversation on Agile Leadership Patterns on June 17, 2015 at 6:00pm in Santa Barbara, California. Remote participants can join the meeting online. Dan first used and researched Scrum and agile methods at Citrix Online, several of his publications discuss practices and data from that early work. Now, Dan has distilled our understanding of agility into a small set of practices: if you do them, you’re agile; if you don’t, you’re not.
Please register and mark your calendar!
While agile has zealots, it is not a religion. Agile is a scientific method that converts economic chaos to profit.
Enterprises often have lots of time-sensitive opportunities and insufficient skilled or creative people (called “developers” in this pattern) to do everything.
Problem: Stakeholder competition distracts creative people, interferes with profitable work and creates office politics …
To sustain rapid adaptation and innovation, we need good agile managers. But management talent is rare, and agile management talent even rarer.
Danger lurks when executives and managers don’t understand agile. You can tell when managers don’t understand agile: they don’t use it themselves. Agile methods, Scrum particularly, are perfect for managing creative teams, including management teams planning and executing strategy (see Strategy Scrum Teams). [suth2014]