Peeling the Onion on Agile Software Development
It is shocking how few folks in leadership positions seem to grasp the difference between strategy and tactics. I think this may be a symptom of the incredibly short attention span most businesses have today… looking at the current quarters performance. Probably no where in business do you find this to be the case more than in Software Development and IT shops. Chet Richards says it well in his book Certain To Win – “It is as if corporate leaders believe it is more important to install technology than to understand what to do with it.”
You see this with organizations that want to become agile, but they seem to have a hard time clearly expressing why they would undertake the changes necessary to transform into an agile organization. This pattern I call the ‘Silver Bullet’ pattern. Chamber the bullet, ready, fire, aim and if that doesn’t kill the current perceived beast, then buy the next one to see if it can slay the beast. In the mean time execute a series of reorgs to reboot the org all the while not learning much of anything…sound familar?
I’ve been looking at the world from a holistic systems and interdisciplinary viewpoint for a while now and from such a perspective agile software development has always been a complex adaptive system. This view is generally shared by folks I know and authors I’ve read that also have a systems view of the world.
What’s fascinating is that each year folks just seem to recognize a few more of the dependencies that already exist in this system. For instance, scaling agile is a
significant topic in the market today and as the onion gets peeled it is becoming more and more clear that the challenges of scaling agile in organizations is not about process or technology or tools, it’s about the human component, the way our brain architecture reacts to change which is why change management is needed in the first place.
Denial of the fact that in complex adaptive systems things just aren’t very predictable can cause fear in many people. This is the same denial that gave root to the bastardization of waterfall – the focus on following process, micro-management and the wondrously wasteful metrics that attempted to provide the illusion of project control and protection from projects that failed.
It will be interesting to have additional conversations and attend other sessions to see how the Lean thinking (which is more systems thinking-oriented with it’s attention to the whole value flow) onion is being further integrated with agile approaches.