The curse of processes and tools

If command and control is your thing, if the lead engineer keeps a close eye on your work or if no decision is made without the blessing of the corner office, then agile is not for your company. 

When a set of rules governs everything you do, the only winner is the boss. Or those creative ones that can run the fastest.

However, if you build your work around motivated individuals and give them the necessary support, the job gets done. And more importantly, they will learn to do it even better next time.

The only role of management is to remove impediments and create an environment for problem-solving. Alter all, it is all about collaboration and maintaining a sustainable pace.

Bottom line: When management has an assembly-line mentality, you probably can set your watch on the workers’ arrival and leaving times. Even worse, if your job is described and measured by someone else, your end is in sight.

Plan for your mistakes

You know the plan is not going to work, so instead, plan to make sure you will learn from your mistakes quickly – better known as being agile.

Building a plan with a tight schedule, and sticking to it, could be rewarding. But imagine the detail and information required to predict the unpredictable, even worse, the project manager blowing in your neck to stay in line.

Don’t we all love it when a plan comes together? Especially if you are a cog within the machinery of your organization and when your predictions are head-on. 

A better idea is maybe only to plan those tasks that won’t have changed by the time you get them. And, be on the lookout for those little things that alter your direction. But, more importantly, celebrate them. And over time, you will become better at predicting change.

Bottom line: Predicting the market is up there with looking into a glass ball to predict the future. We know the requirements and plans will evolve. So instead, you should plan for change.

What I learned from the greatest tennis player

Generous is hardly an attribute that we will use when referring to sports opponents. However, when the sport becomes an art, the narrative changes. It is still a measure of strength, endurance, and skill on the field. To get to the top of the podium, you still need what it takes. Because, when you get into the arena, the urge to win takes over.

However, when bringing generosity to the track, the intention to play changes. The opponents may not address issues as artists do, but o boy, they can create tension and allow us to look at life differently.

Sport with little intent, apart from the urge to win, is entertaining and helps us enjoy life and admire those playing. But, in the end, it is what it is, fun. Yet, most of the time, the intent is selfishness.

Bottom line: Now and then, you a find a sportsman or woman who will focus on giving those around them dignity, respect, and a chance to shine with them. By bringing generosity to the game, they help others move forward. They change perspectives and create a following. That is what Nadal did today.

Why agile is not for you.

Agility is not your thing if you need to hold someone accountable when a project goes south. Instead, it is a team thing where a group takes responsibility for learning from mistakes. It requires discipline and guts, but more importantly, it requires you to be vulnerable.

The alternative is to create a framework of scripts, rules, and procedures to guide everyone on the job. Then, in the end, they will do just that, their job. Because, with rules, responsibility shifts hands, and learning opportunities are missed.

Bottom line: When embracing an agile product commercialization process, you need to leave your ego at home. Stay at home if you don’t want to sign up for that.

Who uses agile?

John Deere uses it when developing new tractors. Saab used it to produce their fighter jets. GE relied on it to speed up its transition from a dinosaur to a “digital industrial company.” Still, many believe that agile is only for up-and-coming Wizz kids at software companies. Those that can’t focus and commit to demanding deadlines.

The one thing all of these companies are aware of is that the products they deliver may not excite their customers initially. But, most of all, they know failure will move them forward. Failure will allow them to discover and move faster. Consequently, cross-functional teams are required to manage themselves, keep everyone on their toes and step out of their comfort zone.

Most corner offices will claim they understand the importance of agile. And, they will show that they know the lingo – scrum, sprint kanban, backlog, etc. But, when you scratch on the surface, you will soon realize that they are confusing nimbleness and agile. Yes, it would help if you become more nimble, but it is not the same. 

Therefore, the fallback is to continue with what they know best. It is the safer bet. Soon, effectiveness makes way for extra meetings, more talking, less listening, additional reviews, and promoting marginal ideas. 

Bottom line: The fear of disappointment, and our egos, keeps us in the spaces we know, even if it is the reason for our failure in the first place. But, on the other hand, showing your vulnerabilities and embracing the learning opportunities allows you to deliver impact.

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Agile, for some, is a buzzword. For others, it is the next best thing. However, it is seldom a way to overthrow the present and now secretly. No, agile is all about acknowledging your shortcomings and mistakes and accepting a pivot in the same breath.

Over the last decade or two, many companies have followed an agile strategy since birth. And we saw some senior executives at established institutions making the transition to agile. 

However, many egos are still unwilling to pivot towards better results. For them, it is about relinquishing power and admitting that you could be wrong and, for many, a scary thought.

Imagine senior management having a daily scrum that the rest of the company can watch, retrospective shared across the organization, and a backlog of work to which any employee can add. 

Bottom line: Change is getting faster. Acknowledge it, leave your ego behind and embrace the fact that you could be wrong.