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Focus More on Thinking Right vs. Working Right!

The software development conundrum noise is building up again. I apologize for the gap between this article and my last series’ article – Moving to Agile Scrum. I was busy leading another large digital transformation initiative, and even squeezed in some travel to Europe. I will share bits and pieces of that experience in a future series of articles, but this is not why I’m posting today.

Lately, there’s been a lot of noise around how Agile is failing or it’s just not living up to what the cottage industry has been selling for years. Plenty of people have already written about what is and what’s not Agile or why it’s not working so I won’t bore you by regurgitating them. Instead, I hope to provide my next series of articles about looking at the problem from a different perspective or even tweaking the Agile rules a little.

Let’s use the trifecta of people, process, and tools (sorry, but I think this is one of those Big 4 consulting rituals that has never left me) for implementing Scrum, Lean, Less, DAD, Safe, and others that have become known as the new Way of Working Agile frameworks. All these methods want you to follow their prescriptive playbook for doing. It makes total business sense since you want a process that is consistent to formalize and start selling certifications and training. Yes, some valid points are made by these opponents of Agile frameworks on the spread of commercialization, but complaining without generating alternative solutions is just adding more noise. I hope we can agree that no matter the process or tools used, Agile success depends on your people. It’s about changing their mindsets whether they follow these Agile practices to a tee or not. Let’s experiment today and ask our team members to think before you just do. Let’s call this the new Way of Thinking (or WoT) that can be extracted from all these Agile methods. Agile supposedly promotes team self-management, but it should also encourage people to think adaptively, critically, and differently.

When people stop thinking for themselves (or when critical thinking walks out the door), the risk of failure for any company increases. Jeff Bezos understands this very well, and his Day One philosophy is a perfect example of a new WoT approach, which has helped build Amazon’s culture of customer-centricity and innovation. Practices and trends will come and go but changing existing mindsets at established companies will always be a long arc of change. Atlassian, the company that brought us JIRA from an unknown bug tracking tool only 10 years ago, knows tools sell quicker than changing mindsets. However, getting people to drink the Agile Kool-Aid is critical to their longevity and even more so with their recent license increase.

I’m not advocating you throw out your JIRA tool right now or look for alternative software delivery methods, but redirect the focus on how these processes and tools can help teams transform to a new WoT—making Agile practices more meaningful and impactful. The new WoT becomes much easier to apply to the broader organization for achieving business agility.

Look out for my next article, as I decompose the new Way of Thinking along the software-delivery funnel regardless of what Agile methods or tools you use. Please stay tuned and have a great day!

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