Agile Software Development

Agile Transitions: Starting with Practice Instead of Theory

In a post for the Clever PM, Cliff Gilley notes how most agile training begins with teaching the theory—as in teaching the perfect, golden ideal of agile. The problem is that theory will not help people do their jobs, and teaching the theory at all can feel more like an effort toward indoctrination. So Gilley proposes a way to provide agile training that results in agile teams that can function without theory and indoctrination.

Practically Speaking

He begins his proposal by immediately backtracking and acknowledging that, yes, someone in the organization actually does need to be intimately familiar with the theory. Without a true agile expert on board (preferably an in-house one), nobody can be certain things are being properly implemented. The expertise of someone with a wealth of practical experiences is vital.

This person can articulate to teams why the practices of scrum are used without resorting to answers like “because scrum says to do it this way.” Here are some examples Gilley gives:

  • Why do we have sprint planning sessions?  It’s not because the theory tells us to — it’s because we need to create a plan for the next iteration that we’ll judge our success against.
  • Why do we have retrospectives?  … it’s because we want to reflect on what we’ve done and improve with each iteration.
  • Why do we have prioritized backlogs?  … it’s because we want to have a “just in time” pipeline so that everyone knows what’s next in line to execute on.

Approaching things this way shows how there are legitimate, practical business reasons to run a project like this—even if somebody did not want to call it scrum. I wonder what would happen if a bunch of people were rounded up in a room and taught the principles of agile without ever using the word “agile.” If they were simply told, “Here are some sensible ideas to run projects,” people would probably just nod their heads that there is merit to it. Describing the perfect, golden agile associated with it might not be that important.

For further thoughts, you can view the original post here:

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