Agile, more than ever

No, this is not another blog post trying to sell you the idea of “there’s also something good about this mess”. But truth be told, people don’t normally change until there’s something (like this!) pushing them towards change.

It is tough, it is bad, it is hurting but maybe there is something we can do to make it better. There must be lots of smart ideas to implement but we’ll stick to what we know best, and that’s Agile.

There are two concepts that people embrace with the move to Agile: dealing with uncertainty (there’s plenty of that around) and always improving.

We’ll start with the easy one: always improving. Easy in theory because, as always the practice is not so easy. It basically means that at different times, you have to pause, look back in retrospect and with all the honesty and all the openness in the world (that you are capable of) try to make some small adjustments. Don’t try to revolutionize or disrupt anything, just keep it small. But keep it going and in a matter of weeks the improvements should be visible.

Let’s tackle the uncertainty bit now. Yes, there is plenty of that. Unfortunately there is no playbook or manual to tell you what to do. That’s the definition of uncertainty, isn’t it? But here are a few lessons from seasoned agile practitioners:

Make it small. Break it into smaller pieces until it becomes clear, simple and predictable. There is a big unknown, but you’ll realize there are lots of small known pieces you can operate with.

Experiment. Some call it “fail fast” but essentially it is assuming that you don’t have a clue and you have to find out. And since there is no manual to learn from, the only way to learn is by doing. Like all empirical processes, these too are based on doing.

Collaboration. Keep everybody close: employees, clients, partners, etc. They might have some ideas that might be helpful. Even if they don’t, having them around has a powerful human impact. Nobody wants to be alone in such moments.

Eliminate waste. It is a good moment to start looking for all the activities you’ve been doing and were not particularly valuable. In a booming economy, you can afford to be lazy, waste time and not operate at your full potential. The economic prosperity works for you. But now we have to be very careful with our time. It is still the most important asset and it can be used to produce something that has value or that someday will have value. You may want to review the concept of ROI here.

Value. For thousands of years people have always appreciated something. That has changed with the years or with the crisis but there’s always something that people cherish and value so much that they’re willing to pay for.