This is the English version of an article I pubished at t2informatic last week (Agilität beginnt im Herzen).

I had a terrible nightmare some days ago:

I dreamed, I had a very good idea, which would speed up our project significantly and make the work in our teams much easier. So far so good.

Therefore, I went to our Product Manager. I explained my idea. First, he listened to me intently. But his face became more and more … I don’t know how to describe it, more like an Excel sheet. He asked me, if I had applied for budget already. Obviously, I hadn’t done it, I wanted to discuss my idea with him first. Some of the Excel cells were tinted red. Then he asked me, if I had aligned my idea with the other projects and their methodology. We couldn’t buy all those bells and whistles – more of those cells in his face were tinted orange and red. I called him “EXCELLARATOR” to myself.

Excellarator

Because he didn’t want to decide anything, he sent me to our System Architect. Before that she was the responsible project lead. But nowadays we were agile – and there no project leads anymore. She asked me after the status of the project in our team – we were not really green as far as she could see it. After all, because we were not really green, we didn’t need new ideas. She stressed the point, how far the project was behind the schedule – so we couldn’t afford some extra sweets. Her bonus depended on it after all. I could do what I wanted; I would get my money anyhow. But her money depended directly from the project success. She couldn’t do without it; she had just built a house. I should come again, when the project was green. For me, she suffered from “STATUSRITIS”.

Statusrititis

But I didn’t want to give up. I had a good impression from our Epic Owner. Besides I had never spoken to him personally. I had seen him only at official meet ups. Surprisingly, he had time for me. A good sign, I thought. Also, I explained my idea to him. But after a quarter of my speech (what was no more than 2 minutes), he interrupted me. He wasn’t interested in technical details. He too objected with the target schedule of the project. “We must deliver and try out new things constantly.” (Which was new for me in turn – new things we hadn’t tried in the entire project.) He forbad me downright, to think about such things. He looked to me like an overpowering “GENERAL” with golden epaulets.

General

I decided to go to CIO. He preached the agile organization at all. I stood before his office door and heart him spoke on the phone loudly. … But then I woke up over and over in sweat.

 This dream moved me a couple of days. I thought about it thoroughly. What did my subconsciousness want to say? Was only my Ego offended, because nobody was interested in my idea? Did I feel not being understood? Was my personal opinion about agility and cooperative work affected?

Due to Wikipedia agility means:

Agile software development is an approach to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customer(s)/end user(s). It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continual improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.[1]

Excellarator, Statusrititis-Infected, and General didn’t sound after flexibility and adaptive planning really.

As per agile manifesto, agility handles individuals, reaction to change, collaboration and running software.

We want to be more agile. Agile simple means for a classic management: We close it earlier. But it means simply at the core, to accept changes and not simply to follow a previously defined plan.

Therefore, we have to disengage from defined project timelines and to open oneself to the product idea. A comparison of those both thinking models can be found in the following table.

  Project – Deadline Product – Result
Roles ·      Project leads

·      Business analysts

·      Requirement engineers

·      Developers, Testers

·      Product managers

·      Product owners

·      UX experts

·      Developers, Testers

·      Architects

·      Scrum masters

Organization ·      Functional organization

·      Silos

·      Cross-functional product teams
Result ·      Deliverable result is defined

·      Business KPIs, time and budget are predetermined

·      The product lives.

Table 1 Comparison Project and Product[2]

As superior, counterpart, I wish me a listener and one giving hints. A counterpart, who encourages and requires creativity and new ideas. But why creativity?

Software development is a deeply creative process in my point of view. We create with our technology, a digital representation of business processes, which were not there beforehand. But that includes, that creativity blockades like

  • the conformity pressure of EXCELLARATOR,
  • or his budget orientation,
  • the close success orientation and the time pressure of Statusrititis-Infected,
  • and the thinking forbidding of General

needs to be brought out of our (project) world.

To enable creativity in the cross-functional teams of the software development nowadays, we need to create free space for the teams and individuals, which allow new unconventional ideas. That includes failing as well. Creativity is possible, when the individual in the team and the team themselves get approval for his, her, their accomplishments.

That means then, not only ordering agility from above, but also really be prepared to live agility.

To live agility, means listening. I must go to the colleagues and listening to their ideas and take their opinions seriously. “To takes them seriously” means then as well, to initiate changes. Bare lip services don’t help here. If a team is taken seriously or not, is recognized quite fast by the colleagues. Honesty is asked for in any kind.

To live agility, means too, to take new things consciously and to allow them. New ideas need space. They cannot be pressed in close project frames usually. Only the question “Do we need that really? We already have xyz.”, should be forbidden actually. Only the term “resources” is horrible wrong. One can’t reach creativity with resource usage, but with humans.

Creativity needs freedom. But borderless freedom breaks down creativity. Teams need clear frame conditions, in which they can act. To this, the free decision about used technologies – inside of the frame conditions. To this, the free decision about the Definition of Done which is used inside of the team. It includes which team-crossing boards they need like UX Community or architecture board.

If we want an agile organization, we shouldn’t define individual objectives. Those counteract common team targets in a very awkward way. If one has to deliver a project at a certain date to get his bonus, he would act ego-centric instead of team-centric most probably. Their Statusrititis is understandable, but it builds up a principle conflict in an agile organization. The conflict needs to be solved. To formulate team objectives and then to award a prize to the team, serves the target of an agile organization better.

Each of those requirements leads to the same thing at the core: Empathy. We have to meet each other with empathy, to create really great things together. And empathy means heart. I have to be ready to live agility in my heart. I have to overcome my own inner Excellarator, my own Statusrititis, my own inner General. I make me transparent thereby and vulnerable. And that is valid then to the agile organization in the same way.

But we win together a project, a product which makes fun, creates new things and is successful in a business point of view as well.

 

[1] Wikipedia: Agile software development, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development, retrieved 21.8.2019

[2] Found in: Frommelt, A., Junker, A.: Von Design Thinking bis DevOps, Talk WJAX 2019, Munich 11/ 2019

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