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Someone said, ‘Evolution does not care whether you believe in it or not’, and that is true for Scrum as well. Scrum and all agile practices are evolving. Recently I got to read the opinions of leading agile experts on various aspects of Scrum/agility (presented below as ‘other experts’). At the same time, I see some remarkable changes in the world of agility are rapidly redefining today’s business environment. Those who can negotiate the rapid pace of change, anticipate the needs, and take the lead in developing the right culture and strategy for the future are likely to be winners.

Agile is team focused

Common Belief

Agile is a team-based approach.

Other experts

One must look at the entire value stream – from product management to the team.  Product management in many ways is more important than the teams themselves as you must be building the right things and have the right workload.

Emerging trend

Instead of creating a value stream, create one team which would be a combination of business stakeholders, and Scrum team. Smaller end-to-end teams deliver better results. The team should create a cutting-edge product backlog, work effectively, and deliver killer products asap, every Sprint.

 

Scaling Agile

Common Belief

Scaling Agile should start at the team level.

Other experts

You don’t want to scale Agile, you want to look at the entire value stream. Smaller teams working together is better, but if you have to work at scale, start by looking at the entire value stream. Starting with effective product management is often much more important than getting teams to work well.

Emerging trend

You don’t need to scale Agile, you need Microservices. Create small independent teams with shared consciousness having a little or possibly no dependencies. Each team should be able to deliver features independently and be able to leverage the fast changing technology instead of adding to the monolith which slows down the company.

 

Self-Organization

Common Belief

Agile works because teams get to self-organize.

Other experts

While self-organization is important, it is more important to have an effective eco-system within which to self-organize.  This mis-belief is why many things required at scale are ignored in the Agile community.

Emerging trend

The agility does not work in isolation, we need agility everywhere in the organization, not just in the IT teams. We don’t need to scale; we need Agile mindset. Leaders and knowledge workers both will have to create a culture of agility in the entire company for real success.

 

Scrum of Scrums

Common Belief

Scrum of Scrums works to scale Agile

Other experts

There is little evidence this approach works well. It certainly is not the only way to coordinate multiple teams.

Emerging trend

Scrum of Scrums is the continuation of coordination at the program level to respond to the need of monoliths, it never worked and possibly cannot work. Build Microservices, it works. Stay away from monoliths to respond to the changes quickly.

 

Scrum works at all levels

Common Belief

It’s all Scrum

Other experts

Inter-team dynamics are quite different from team dynamics.  Applying what works at the team level everywhere causes challenges.

Emerging trend

Scrum is just a framework; Agile mindset is need of the hour. Scrum is not a fixed set of rules carved in stone. It should evolve forever. Software is the reflection of leaders’ thought process. Centralized organization structure would create monoliths. Move away from centralized structure and create self similar fractal structure. Work towards distributed independent teams with minimal coordination.

 

Management’s role

Common Belief

Management’s role should be supporting teams.

Other experts

While management does need to support teams, management has responsibilities beyond removing impediments for the team.  They are responsible for setting up the system within which people work.

Emerging trend

Management has an equally important role. Besides setting up ecosystem, they need to explain ‘why?’ and goals of the company, need to create and share the purpose, and they need to promote the right culture with every action.

 

Middle management

Common Belief

You should try to eliminate middle-management

Other experts

Mid-management may be ineffective in many places but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.  There is a lot of tacit knowledge in mid-management.  We need to get them focused on creating proper eco-systems so people have a better place to work.

Emerging trend

You just don’t need middle management; their tribal knowledge struggles to find a place in the new economy.  We should learn to thrive in the new disruptive world, and learn the art of living without management ‘anchors’. So phase the middle management out and create an end-to end team with all the right people including the Scrum team.

 

Starting Agile practices

Common Belief

A good way to start Agile is with a team pilot project.

Other experts

Getting teams to do Agile by themselves is not that difficult. A focus on it may actually make expanding Agile more difficult later. For large organizations, starting an Agile pilot by starting Scrum at the team level is often counter-productive.

Emerging trend

Fast eats slow in this world. Pilot is always a waste of time. It shows you don’t have faith in your ideas or you are scared of failure. Instead of wasting time on pilot launch the MVP (minimum viable product) and let the market guide you.  Don’t be afraid of failure so long as you are able to get back quickly.

 

Cross-functional teams

Common Belief

You always start by forming cross-functional teams

Other experts

Cross-functional teams are wonderful. However, they are not always possible or financially viable to have.  Few practices are an always.

Emerging trend

We just need a team with the right skillset (T-shaped skills); no separation of duties between QA and Dev. We need a team where people are willing to learn/experiment, and go an extra mile to get the business goal.

 

Where to start agility?

Common Belief

You always start exactly where you are

Other experts

Starting where you are may result in missing easy opportunities for improvement.

Emerging trend

With 52% companies already off the Fortune 500 list in last 15 years, survival in the digital economy is important. Don’t build on old things. Keep pace with the changing technology and build new things, just offer the customers what they absolutely need.

 

Workflow

Common Belief

Workflow should not be specific

Other experts

They believe a team’s workflow should be specific to improve collaboration and team learning as well as to allow management to understand what the team is doing.

Emerging trend

Don’t create teams or structures grounded in inter-team collaboration. Some collaborations are necessary and you can overcome that dependency with the right structure, and right practices. Management must stay as close to the ground as possible vs relying on reports.

 

Predictability in Software Development

Common Belief

You can’t get predictability because software development is complex

Other experts

There is a difference between micro-predictability (is the ball landing on the red, black or green number in roulette) and macro-predictability (more money is staying at the table).  There are patterns in software development that can have you achieve predictable results.  Just because many people haven’t figured out how to do this doesn’t mean it’s not possible.  Perhaps they are trying things that aren’t effective at scale (e.g., Scrum-of-Scrums).

Emerging trend

What matters is meeting business goals, not when the software will be delivered. Business should not be engineering focused; it should be goal focused. Get out of speculation business, be ready to fail, and achieve goals every Sprint.

 

Simplicity

Common Belief

You must keep everything as simple as possible

Other experts

Focusing on simplicity typically results in missing things you should be looking at.

Emerging trend

Keeping things simple is very hard, compared to keeping things complex. So be customer centric and just provide what is absolutely needed.

 

‘Telling People what to do’

Common Belief

You should never tell people what to do when you start them off, just give them the rules and let them figure it out themselves

Other experts

When people start out they need more support.  Telling them what to do at the beginning while providing options as they learn is often an effective way to teach people how to learn.  Having people struggle often is just frustrating for people.

Emerging trend

Telling people amounts to making decision on their behalf. It makes more sense to ‘avoid’ decisions so that people on the ground make more decisions. However, people should be made aware of some good practices and should be allowed to decide what works best for them.

 

Commitments/Forecasts

Common Belief

Teams should not make commitments, just forecast.

Other experts

The best way to build trust is to make commitments and then inform who you’ve made the commitment to as soon as you believe you may not achieve it. See Let’s stop doing the wrong thing because we can’t get past an impediment.

Emerging trend

Commitments/Forecasts are for planning purposes. What matters is achieving business goal. Team should be organized to meet business goals every Sprint. Who cares for velocity? Sprint should not be a game of just meeting velocity, rather it should be focused on meeting business goals progressively using all resources, creativity.

Ashok
Ashok
Ashok is an agile thinker, innovator, writer, and entrepreneur. Ashok specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile practices to build extremely high-performance organizations.

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