What is “Agile”? What are the agile methods? What do they promise? Most of the readers surely know! They are a set of methods that helps to organize the work in a better way and, consequently, increase the productivity. But, sometimes, even though we strictly follow their rules, we can’t get to the goals that we hope to achieve. Why?
The topic was discussed, more or less directly, to the “Better Software 2011” event, superb software-related conference, organized by Develer. Most of the italian sotware experts shared their experience and, among their thoughts and ideas, three talks got my attention.
The second, “Overcoming self-organization blocks” (speaker: Andrea Provaglio), explained why it is important for a team to self-organize and what are the most common obstacles that make self-organization hard to do.
The third, “Anti if for managers” (speaker: Francesco Cirillo), very fun and provocative at the same time, tried to give some advices to managers to understand when the project is near to failure (despite the use of all the best pratices and agile methods) and ther’s only one thing to do: leave before taking the blame!!
They all discussed the same subject from different points of view. What prevents Agile from working? They all gives the same answer: people!! People are the problem!! The idea is so simple that most of the times nobody can notice it! It is sufficient to think about a team whose members aren’t collaborative, or a situation where communication with everyone who’s interested in the product is poor, or a team whit low morale and insufficient motivation!
Everyone and everything at the workplace (people, customers, workflows, etc.) can contribute to the failure of the project and agile methodologies. That’s the point that deserves the maximum attention!
Choosing the team members wisely, investing time and money on “people improvement”, getting the morale high, promoting self-improvement, self-criticism and sharing of knowledge, making the work place a pleasant work place, etc. All these practices should be the fuel for the agile methodologies.
The message is clear: the “Agile manifesto” alone can’t give what it promises! So, how to make it working? Of course, it isn’t easy. It’s a duty that mainly belongs to manager and team leader. They have to find the proper methods to their particular situation. However, Andrea Provaglio said something really interesting: the workplace, with all of its social dynamics and workflows, is an adaptive system which reacts to changes.
It follows out that every member, whatever is his role, can try to improve the situation by improving himself.