How to Read and Write Pattern Languages

Simon Silaidis, Urban Calligraphy "Skyfall"

Pattern languages can help us understand complex systems. Read how pattern languages work, and how you can write your own. We are defining agility and its practices using a pattern language called the Agile Canon. Using the first five patterns in the Agile Canon, you can diagnose whether your team is agile, whether it can keep its agility, and whether it expands agility beyond the team’s boundaries.

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Agile Base Pattern: Proactively Experiment to Improve

Agile Base Pattern: Adaptively Experiment for Improvement

Context: Plenty of data informs us. We can forecast when things will happen. Our progress metrics are aligned with long term goals. But externalities impede our progress: competitors emerge, delays harm us. We are passive victims of outside circumstance.

Reacting to circumstance is not enough to succeed…

We suspect unknown dangers, economic loss, and growing ineffectiveness. Our friends reassure us, choosing their words carefully. Existing data is eerily stable. We aren’t learning anything new.
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Agile Base Pattern: Measure Economic Progress

Context: We can study others who succeed, imitate their activities and gain their skills. But these activities create nothing new. Once we have reached their capabilities, how do we know if we’ve improved?

When we try to create new value in new economies, plans can’t guarantee success …

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Religion vs Science in the Battle for Agile

While agile has zealots, it is not a religion. Agile is a scientific method that converts economic chaos to profit.

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Develop Agile Managers, or Agile Dies

Something is Wrong, It Must Be Agile

To sustain rapid adaptation and innovation, we need good agile managers. But management talent is rare, and agile management talent even rarer.

Danger lurks when executives and managers don’t understand agile. You can tell when managers don’t understand agile: they don’t use it themselves. Agile methods, Scrum particularly, are perfect for managing creative teams, including management teams planning and executing strategy (see Strategy Scrum Teams). [suth2014]

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Strategy Scrum Teams

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

White House Situation Room discussing mission against Osama bin Laden

Management teams can use Strategy Scrum to manage themselves and more effectively finish important work. It creates greater resiliency, a more collaborative culture and deeper agile understanding, which helps their Scrum development teams succeed.

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Are We Agile? Answer 5 Questions to Find Out

Iterations of the Light Bulb: Slow Motion Agility?

The strongest, most resilient agile entities (organizations, teams, individuals) follow 5 progressive agile base patterns. To assess your agility, ask how well you follow those patterns. To stay agile, follow the agile base patterns indefinitely. Continue reading

Top-Down Agile Beats Bottom-Up

Leaders who publicly demonstrate agile methodologies and promote them top-down drive their organizations to sustain agile practices and succeed. But bottom-up agile transformations lack resiliency and generate cultural strife.

Top-down agile

Taiichi Ohno, agile coach for Toyota and its executives

Agile methodologies are now widely recommended for managing software development, but most large companies require transformation from entrenched “waterfall development,” an intuitively appealing strategy that has created massive project disasters (see Why Software Fails). Traditionally, most large agile transformations have been pursued bottom-up. One approach starts with a single team, proves agile works, and then expands further and higher in the organization. Hopefully that agile team’s success inspires others to become agile. Another approach religiously converts all engineering teams to adopt a specific agile methodology, but leaves management teams and hierarchies, dependencies, promotion policies, job titles, roles, recruiting and budgeting in their previous form. The developers adopt agile, but the managers don’t. Continue reading