Thursday, January 26, 2012

Learn from everyone

(Part of the learnings from my scrum coaching seminars in December.)

I like to think that I’m an expert when it comes to agile processes. I’m a Certified Scrum Master; I’ve worked in great teams; I’ve built teams. But I can always learn something from another person, no matter where they are on the road of agility… Or even if they are traveling a completely different road - and in the opposite direction. In fact, I learned quite a bit from a Project Manager I chatted with the other day. He jumbled agile and scrum in with other project management styles, calling them all “derivatives of waterfall.” It made me cringe (good thing I was on the phone with him, not face-to-face)!

I later realized that he may not have understood the philosophy behind agile, and was operating solely on an understanding of the practices. I wondered if he had ever been exposed to the Agile Principles.

When you run agile based solely on the practices found in one of the frameworks (like scrum -- do stand-ups; estimate hours; deliver in two weeks), you’re going to have a different experience than when you run it based on the principles (delight the customer; deliver working software; face-to-face communication rocks; empower the team; expect change; learn and adapt). Without the principles - the heart of agile - the practices can seem like any other set of project management practices. However, if the practices are implemented in order to support the principles, a completely different environment is built. Honesty and transparency take center stage. The number of conversations increase and email threads decrease. The team becomes empowered, and productivity goes through the roof.

It's a minor change in emphasis - identifying the principles behind the practices instead of focusing on the practices themselves. But it can make a world of difference in how agile is viewed, and how successful agile can be in your business.

If I can learn this concept from someone with limited agile experience, what can I learn from folks who practice agility on a daily basis?