The Agile Mechanism

Geert Bossuyt

The Agile Mechanism

What mechanism makes that teams and organizations who act according to the Agile Manifesto can respond to change faster and that they deliver more added value with very low costs ?   The Agile Manifesto itselve does not really gives an answer to this, I think.

Maybe it does in this format :
Interaction between people to deliver working software in close collaboration with the customer delivers good and early feedback, which leads to adapting the plan if needed

Hmmm ... already better, but not yet the clear cup of water I’m looking for.
What about a picture ? A cycle ? The Circle of Agility ...

Circle of Agility

It all starts with interaction.
In interaction feedback is born.
People learn from this feedback so they come to closer understanding. Understanding of each other and understanding of the vision and the product.
As mentioned earlier you need understanding to be able to Focus. The stronger the Focus, the more will be delivered.
Each delivery creates added value (is  what they actually meant when they wrote ‘working software’ in the Manifesto 🙂 ).
Delivering a whole makes it natural to evaluate what was delivered and learn from it.   Learning about the product and learning about the process. ( How strong was the focus, the learning and the interaction?).
The knowledge of what can be done better will be easily followed with improvements of the way of working. This again, will lead to better Interaction, heavier Learning and stronger Focus.
A new cycle is started.       Working together triggers interaction ....

So, back to the original question:
Agile Teams and organizations can respond to change faster because they have a better understanding of what their doing, therefore they can easily adapt what they’re doing.
The actual delivey of Added Value is only a side effect of good interaction, good learning and good focus.   That Agile Teams deliver more for less, is due to a strong Focus that prevents the execution of useless activities.

Would you agree ?

Comments (4)

  1. Arun - Reply

    May 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Very true, but there are many implications of this.

    Agile works only in open management. When every information is known to every one, atleast for what they are doing. It will stop working the moment the managers/peers hide information. This helps in prioritizing tasks and overall understanding of what is to be done.

    Also agile needs small teams to work. I have worked in teams of 20, following Agile methodologies. There people stop following the processes because every interaction takes too long and information is spread across many people. I have seen teams of size 4-8 to work well.

    Thanks to the amount of information flowing across. People cannot be easily moved across teams. Once they are moved they have a steep learning curve for the first few days to understand what is happening and what has to be done. In other processes one can start delivering earlier as and when documents are available.

    Agile is strongly team centered and will move in the direction the team moves. It becomes very difficult to correct it if they all tend to do wrong things. This need recylcling of people from team to team. Which reduces the overall effectiveness.

    Since its a team cetnered activity. There is no room for star programmers. The intellect level of all the people should be similar for it to work. Otherwise internal politics will kill the team.

    Thanks to all this one team cannot be globally seperated in Agile. If they are then the team on the other side of the globe is different from the ones on this side. All people in one team have to sit on the same table at the best.

  2. Geert Bossuyt - Reply

    May 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Arun, thanks for your interesting reaction.

    I think you're absolutely right that Agile Teams operate more efficient wiht more information.
    On the other hand, I also beleive that one of the advantages of working with Focus is that you don't need all the details as long as you understand the Focus.
    To make sure that everyone knows everything is a fulltime job and causes an information overkill. Therefore, a clear Focus is the most important thing because it makes a lot of information redundant.

    An example: Focus of the Team is "The goal of this Sprint is to finish the frontend so we can give a sexy demo to senior management on the 22nd." With this focus (=Sprint Goal) as the result of the Sprint Planning session it is obvious for the entire Team what needs to be done. Details on why screen X needs those 3 buttons and why screen Y can only be accessed from menubar Z are pieces of information that are only important for the guys building screen X,Y,Z. Not particularly needed for the entire Team. Also other info like 'the demo is at 14h in Room B' or 'Mr president wants a demo because he needs to decide on the new funding' are bits of information that can be spread, but with this clear Focus, it won't harm the Sprint if they're not.

    Same goes for big Teams. A Focus can be understood by a thousand people. Working towards it in an efficient and effective way is something else. I prefer Teams of 4 people over Teams of 9 people and I see in reality that any Team bigger dan 8 people naturally organizes itself in subteams. These subteams organize themselves to do the work, and as long all subteams have a good idea of what the common goal is, it'll all work out well.

    Moving people around from one Team to another sounds like a good thing to do. Not too often off course to give each team the opportunity to organize itself. I think it is not true that people can start doing things right away based upon a document. I truly believe people are much faster up to speed in a Team where there is a clear Focus ( someting you can understand in 3 minutes), where interaction and doing things together is valued ( so you can easily ask a question and don't waste your time searching for an answer for hours) and where learning is encouraged ( so you become better and make the TEam better).
    move people around to another Team -> steep learning curve

    I feel like your trying to make a very interesting point at the end about Agile being 'Team centered', but I'm not sure I can follow you ..... I'd like to invite you to participate the discussion on this topic here

  3. Megan - Reply

    December 26, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    My new year can be brighter after reading this post!

  4. Freya - Reply

    December 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Reader's New Year can be better knowing this!

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