Want to be more Agile? Be more Disciplined…

That’s right.  I said it.  To be more agile, you must be more disciplined, rigid.

The thing about agile that strikes me funny is how misunderstood it really is.  So many folks think that it is a license to freelance or freewheel, or something, which invariably is never “free” from cost, rework, technical debts, etc.- especially as we increase in the number of people that have to work together.  Now, if you operate in a two man shop, and the other guy is out selling, do what you want!  But if everyone in modern, multi-person, multi-team shops were simply free to make up their own process or do what they want to do because it feels good, we would be documenting a modernized screenplay of “Lord of the Flies.”  [He doesn’t know .Net, so tonight, we’re gonna …]

I recently had some discussions across multiple groups with an organization.  Never once did any of those groups mention a desire of NOT having a process, or NOT improving.  In fact those groups used words like framework, management, and yes, AGILE.  It is my belief and understanding through experience that people want borders, edges, etc.  I read an article a few years ago, but cannot find the reference to give it credit.  It was about an experiment on road markings.  A person was put into a car, and asked to drive down a road; the catch is, the road had no lines whatsoever.  The result, after X number of people is that the vast majority drove right down the center of the road, using the road edge as the boundary, and wanting to be centered within the boundaries.  Funny thing, in my experience of coaching agile teams and raising kids, this is a common safety net and way of operating.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we through the baby out with the bathwater, but there is some good middle ground to try and land on here.  Somewhere between creativity and rigidity is a place where there are guidelines that cover the 80% rule, and allow the appropriate amount of flexibility to cover the other 20%.  Remember, Agile is a methodology, and for those using Scrum- it’s a framework- not a checklist.

Find a process that works for you and your teams, and also makes sense for your organization.  Then, challenge it occasionally, make it better, make it your own.  Then follow it.  Rinse, Repeat as needed.


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