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Methods and Madness

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Today we’re talking about Agile Methodologies. Massive thanks to Win Tan for today’s #minutewithmarcus question.

“Agile methodologies today? Are there specialised ones for different use-cases?”

This is one I love to help answer in the classroom and often a lightbulb moment for many people.

To help answer I’m going to wind my way back to good old waterfall days. Back then we used to ask “so Prince2 or PMBOK?” And if you carried one card you could generally pick it up ok despite the organisation you worked at.

However Agile is different, it’s not a single methodology. Agile for me is a mindset that brings with it a way and world of working. There are over 40 different practices that could all be considered agile from Management 3.0 to XP, from SAFe to Kanban. The most well known of all of these is Scrum, and almost too well as unfortunately some people believe Agile is Scrum as that is all they have seen and experienced. Even if I Google Agile Methodologies one of the top 10 images is the Scrum Framework, so it’s easy to see how people get confused.

Now, I love Scrum for all the good it brings, but it has a place alongside all the other methodologies. I find it sad when encountering teams who have been given a hammer to put a screw in the wall. The classic is the operations team or service desk who have had Scrum/Agile inflicted on them. Not only does it not fit, it also impacts the trust and openness from the team. This is where the value of a good coach comes in. If you’ve invested in someone who knows their stuff, they will know you can’t do every job in the house with a hammer and you can’t apply Scrum to every way of working. We first have to understand the way of working and desired improvement and then help the team pick the right practice for them to experiment. Prescribing one way for all is like a nutritionist telling everyone to do keto.

Let’s go back to our operations team, if this was me I would understand how they currently work and where they might see improvements. Often this is visibility and capacity, so in this instance the methodology they might choose to experiment with is Kanban.

Ok so maybe you are searching for the holy grail of consistency across your organisation, where do you go, I’ll give you a clue… it’s not SAFe 🤣

On one of the best programs I worked on, we just followed what those amazing group of people did 20 years ago. As an organisation we adopted the agile values and principles! We recognised different areas might use different practices, but we all agreed that values were most important and we valued our principles above any practice. We also took on a continuous improvement approach of experimenting and refining the practices we applied with a focus on getting better. We saw ourselves as a house with many rooms - each room had slightly different practices, but we all held the same values and were aligned around the outcomes we needed to deliver.

Win, I hope this helps to answer your question and thank you so much for posting. My best advice would be to start with the values and principles and speak to a good coach about your use cases. If they are worth their salt they will be able to help you identify what is right for you and support you in the adoption and growth process.

If you enjoyed reading this blog post and would like to feature in a future one please reach out to marcus.ward@twenty2collective or message me on LinkedIn.

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