Par for the agile course

With spring being in the air at the moment, getting out into the open air is a great thing to do. So whether your pleasure is golf, or you prefer your walks unspoiled, the weather is encouraging us to get out and enjoy ourselves.

The winter months saw me experiencing a number of large projects, alongside some real players in the enterprise agile space. Some engagements really sparked my imagination with great ideas, open minded team members, and a learning mindset. Throughout the last year though, I kept dropping in on projects which left me wondering what the outcome would be, as they we pinning their hopes on very rigid structures.

It seemed to me that there was an emerging trend, of people using a new agile vocabulary to describe some rather old fashioned ways of delivering projects. For the most part, commercial factors, or a powerful status quo, meant that transformation was never going to be easy. For some situations though, transforming the business was being made harder by the assertion that using, “Framework X,” would be the key to success, or that the team would be using “Methodology Y”.

Here’s where the golf bit comes in, but first a disclaimer. I am great at helping teams to be productive, but not so great with a golf club. One thing I do know though, is that even great golfers are only allowed fourteen clubs in their bag in a competition.

From this insight, I would expect that the best ones use their experience, and the advice of caddies, etc., to decide which clubs to include. Their personal preference will feature highly, but on occasions some local knowledge, a look to the skies, or some new technology might influence the choice.

This is why I struggle to understand why people are still throwing their whole agenda behind “Framework X,” and “Methodology Y.” Why indeed.

Surely a sensible way for a business, especially one with deep grained process, and commercial or legal pressures, is to be pragmatic. Surely we don’t still need to tell people that agile is an adjective. You can’t do it. If you open your mind, and ears, you will become more agile. If you find great ways of explaining your insights to your teams, and they listen, and think, they will become more agile.

All this is not to say that you shouldn’t know what you are doing, you shouldn’t try to explain the holistic approach. You definitely should, and doing it well, will get people on board, and drive home the success. My point isn’t even that “X and Y,” are bad, they might be exactly the right things for the situation.

The key to success for great golfers, and thought leaders, is in their ability to trust their instincts. These instincts are built on experience, hard won insight, and talent. They are also built on the ability to listen to advice, and decide what goes in the bag, and what gets left at the clubhouse.

So then, are you going to fill the bag in one hit with, “Framework X,’ or just take a few of the choice parts, and leave some space? Are you going to try and throw some old favourites out to make room for, “Methodology Y,” or will you keep a couple in, and just choose the things in the methodology that will really help with the forthcoming work?

Getting these choices right is something that is made much easier by measuring. Looking at what isn’t going so well now, and producing quantitative measures. Begin with qualitative feedback, and work out how you could tell if things got better. Figure out how to measure this, and be pragmatic. Allow the agility to grow, and the success will belong to everyone. Surely this makes more sense, than being the person who made everyone use “X and Y”, and had to deal with the aftermath.