Three theses to kick off 2018

This year will bring new challenges. I’ve summarized a few thoughts on what this year might bring for me and the agile world.

I see three trends:

1. agile management and agile leadership become the buzzword of the year.

Over the past year, it has already become apparent that agility is being driven more from the top and that HR departments, rather than IT, are driving an agile transformation. Agile teams have not been flying under the radar for a long time: it is becoming more urgent for companies to integrate agile approaches into the rest of their structures and into a holistic strategy.

2. the question of how to make an Agile transformation sustainably successful becomes more important.

Too often, we’ve all seen a team successfully adopt agile practices and understand them comprehensively as well – only to be sent “back to work” by management. Guerrilla tactics have reached the end of their effectiveness. Sustainability of agile structures and practices is only in sight if you take the whole company with you, and that means upper management as well as middle management, disrespectfully called the “clay layer”. This leads us to the question how sustainable leadership and structures of an agile company can look like.

3. we need more reflection and fewer methods

Often the question is asked: “Scrum or Kanban”, and later: “am I doing it right”. These are legitimate questions if you are determined to implement agile. After more than 10 years of experience with agile transitions, I now ask different questions:

  • What problem am I trying to solve? – That’s the question I start with.
  • What practices help solve this problem? – Agile methods are great as a starter kit. But just like IKEA’s kitchen starter kit, they don’t have the answer to all of life’s questions, we have to learn to develop them – this is just as true with kitchen appliances and our cooking skills. Successful teams and companies use a mix-and-match of Scrum and Kanban and other methods like XP for development practices.
  • How do I develop my organization’s capabilities towards an agile culture? – For example: from scrum master to coach for multiple teams, to pragmatic rules to build a scaled agile environment and to use agile leadership principles – but there we are back at the beginning of this blog.

Perhaps that is the commonality of these points: Agility needs a deeper understanding of context for success.

Here is a quote from W.E.Deming: “The system that people work in and the interaction with people may account for 90 or 95 percent of performance”.