November 29, 2012 / by Indu Alagarsamy / In Agile /

Agile Iceland 2012 - Screw it, Let's do it.

I totally stole Richard Branson’s line for the captivating title. While Richard Branson was talking about something entirely different on his tweet, it just fit so right on with my zen experience yesterday at the Open Space forum at the Agile Island 2012 conference at Reykjavik that I shamelessly stole it.

A day packed with goodness. Jurgen Appelo’s keynote started the day making you think about enhancing the quality of work life and how getting away from a more traditional style of management into something that allows experimentation, and a more collaborative style can effectively affect the ordinary unhappy Melly’s who hate their job but do it anyway because they have to, into happy and productive Melly’s. Udi Dahan’s talk on balancing architecture and agile practices was keeping it real as always and how being “Agile” and architecture are both important and they help alleviate completely different risks, both important to address. While being agile, helps to focus on mitigating the risk of, “are we developing the right thing?” architecture focuses on building the software right with emphasis to reliability. Also, it’s not a good thing if you can’t scale your system and you end up having to rewrite it! And other interesting talks like Culture Hacking by Petur Orri Saemundsen and Daoi Ingolfsson of Sprettur, and a whole lot more.

Eye Openers

70 % of the projects fail. You need to balance good architecture and agile practices. You need both, it’s not one or the other as each of them are fundamentally managing a different risk. Management is often the biggest hindrance to the adoption of being agile (aka collaborative) style of software development. Jurgen’s statement that Management being the top 4 reasons for biggest hindrance to Agile / collaborative style of development adoption in an organization, brought up this burning question in my head: “So then, how do we convince them!?” If Management is the culprit then how can Developer(s) help change it? Another question that was brought up along the same lines was how does Culture Hacking come into play into the culture of the organization? The discussion was great, and what I learned even more inspiring.

Two stories. Vastly different. Same results - Better practices, better ways

Story 1:

A senior member in the team was able to get buy in from the management to try the new Agile / Collaborative methodology in just one project as an experiment and let the team to implement the process that the team thought best. After management consented, they team experimented. The team was now no longer just theorizing, but actually experimented this, and was able to show effective results. Needless to say, it was adopted and it was the thing.

Story 2:

The development and the testing team had great collaboration already. One of the developer(s) had brought up lean thinking and lean methodology as discussion to the group. The entire team really loved the idea. To the point where they started a book club and read about Lean Development. The thing is, “Management” was invited to their book club meetings but they were a no show. But the group continued with their book club and put practices into place. The D-Day came, and the team informed the management that they are going to work pronto this way, because it works and if they have any questions, they should read the book on lean development first. Screw it, Let’s do it – In this case, a simple and yet an effective culture hack was born turning the organization more effective.

“To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often”

Regardless of which story you draw your inspiration from, the hope is that, it is possible. Experimentation is a good thing. When management realizes that having a whole lot of unhappy Mellys’, who just show up for their jobs to pay their mortgages is terrible and the more employees are involved, then good things happen!

My Takeaways:

The biggest takeaway of the open space discussion was Culture is bigger than management. Management’s job is to help identify the vision and help facilitate the organization reach the goals and empower its people to achieve this effectively. The more open, management is to experiments and collaboration, awesome things are waiting around the horizon! Now onto the equally exciting travel part of the vacation!

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