Challenging Agile

I’ve seen a few articles challenging Agile management lately. Some treat it like a fad that should be going away. I also think Heart of Agile and Modern Agile are somewhat a response to similar challenges. Where a system of practices and methods intended to spread and scale Agile have taken the focus away from instilling a proper mindset. The challengers criticize the what without enough analysis of why. Companies jumping on the Agile bandwagon will often bring in managment to implement practices, such as Scrum or Kanban, and define roles for teams to increase deliverable frequency, but these same companies may not have set a culture and mindset themselves for this to succeed.

This observation leads to the above-mentioned simplifications for bringing the mindset and changing a culture. We can’t expect Agile to succeed instantly, as it is itself a continuously improving process to apply as it grows to fit a unique environment. We must apply the mindset to everything, even the changeover to Agile. Most production facilities have their own tweaks to their pipelines, so why not have tweaks in how you manage your production, be it the technology you make for it, or the way you use it?

Using the simplification from Heart of Agile, in the four words to Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect, Improve, we need to understand that Agile is not just the first two, to Collaborate and Deliver more frequently. I think when people focus on results rather than process that they have blinders on thinking that everything will get done faster. That isn’t necessarily better if it is aimless. A pleasant name for undirected yet continuously growing is organic. It is more like how life itself continues, but is not necessarily smart. Eventually there will be good outcomes somewhere. An article for another day is how this is related to outsourcing, or finding the cheapest labor to increase person hours that are able to be spent on a production. Without clear goals, and then the Reflect and Improve parts of Agile, I can see why the challenges to Agile management are surfacing.

We must not forget to value reflection, and then do something. We must take action no matter how small, to use that reflection to improve. It is not easy to stick to disciplined reflection, especially in heated production situations where time for meta thinking seems to disappear. But this may actually be the most important time to keep your reflection and improvement processes alive. You may think you’re quickly heading down your deliverable path, but without reflection, you may not be on target, you may be heading down the wrong path. It’s organic luck if you are going down the right path, or close enough that you don’t have to swerve too much.

When turnaround times due to complex, heavily burdened compute resources don’t allow immediate results, it keeps us reflective. But technology advances as always, and we are getting closer and closer at least to faster decision making if not final frames. We’re talking about decision making for some fairly ambitious projects. As rendering for decision making becomes faster, as virtual production in ever better game engines becomes easier, we have greater opportunity to increase the rate of collaboration and delivery. Those are not all we need. This is a warning that part of the time we are saving must continue to be used for reflection and improvement. Or we will get nowhere much faster. Or somewhere much faster. It will be organic luck if it is in the direction we want to head.

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