Across Industries, Agile is the Uncommon Mastery of Common-Sense Solutions
Theres an old adage that anyone whos looked at a cat door has said to themselves I could have invented that – but could have is a long way from did. A cat door is a common-sense solution to a common problem, but despite the name common-sense solutions are hardly common themselves. How often have you solved; a problem with an overthought solution? How often have you overlooked straightforward in favor of hopelessly complicated and spent sixty hours on something that only needed six (while neglecting something else that needed more of your time)?Despite the name, common sense is anything but.
Part of the problem is complacency and the mindset of sure, it takes six weeks and forty-four steps to do it, but at least it gets done. Its easy to stick with what works even if what works is totally inefficient. Complacency can come in many forms: a development process that takes five times longer to complete because thats just the way things work around here! or a team that discovers their plan is too rigid for the job but stick to it anyways because its The Plan. Complacency is accepting the status quo and avoiding change because it seems difficult or risky. Complacency is what gets you into trouble.
Let Go of the Status-Quo
Fifteen years ago, a group of software engineers kept finding themselves overwhelmed by ineffective development techniques and decided there needed to be a different way. Their solution, the 12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto, was born out of frustration with the dominant paradigms of their industry. It was not a revolutionary way of thinking, nor was it comprised of new ideas and bold new directions; it was common-sense principles to solve common problems. Anyone who looked at the Manifesto might have said, I could have invented that – but could have is a long way from did. In an industry cluttered by processes with more obstacles than solutions, the Agile Manifesto was an elegant alternative, cutting through chaos with clarity. The principles often seem self-evident, like working software is the primary measure of progress, but as anyone who has lost days of productivity to buggy software knows, just because something seemed self-evident at the time doesnt mean it was followed through.
Agile was created for the software industry, but it didnt stay there. Later visionaries saw its potential for the corporate world as a whole and so was born Modern Agile. Modern Agile took its originators 12 software development-specific Principles and compressed them into four fundamental Objectives for every company to strive for:
- Make People Awesome
- Make Safety A Prerequisite
- Experiment And Learn Rapidly
- Deliver Value Continuously
Buried in each is a world of nuance, but at its core, Modern Agile is just like the original Agile Manifesto. Modern Agiles core ideals are the same: common-sense solutions to common problems.
- Make People Awesome is a reminder that good work has to do with more than just keeping-up morale: empowered staff feel like their contributions matter and that they make a real difference. Likewise, empowered customers feel like they truly excel with your product and that it makes a significant different in their lives.
- Make Safety A Prerequisite is a plea to not let ambition outstrip ability. Stress, overwork, and Repetitive Strain Injury can be as dangerous to those with office jobs as an erratic forklift can be to those working in warehouses. If you cant take care of yourself and your employees, how can your customers trust you to take care of them?
- Experiment And Learn Rapidly needs little clarification: the modern world demands mobility and innovation and you cant afford to be left behind.
- Finally, Deliver Value Continuously gets to the heart of Agile as a process: end-loading utility is wasteful; the earlier your product starts delivering value in its lifecycle, the sooner potential clients start seeing what its worth.
When Agile Met Sally (Agile Across the Industries)
Remarkable things happen when Agile meets pre-existing practices. When Agile met the old engineering kanban it led to the WIP kanban board model for development teams, an approach to work management you may have heard of or even used yourself. The tenants of Agile are so flexible and expansive that they can help refine techniques and practices in all sorts of industries. At Eigenworks, we have spent the last year bringing Agile to the world of Competitive Intelligence. We urge you to take the time to familiarize yourself with just how useful Agiles common-sense approach can be to your organization. And if youre already familiar, a deep-dive into Agiles finer points can bring fresh insights. Dont wait to take a look – remember: learning (and learning rapidly) are part of what Agile is all about. For information on the original Agile Manifesto, click here. For information on Modern Agile, visit their website here.