Programming] got its name when its founder Kent Beck asked the question, ‘What would happen if we took each technique/practice and performed it to the extreme? How would that affect the software process?’” (Lane, 2006) For example, if code reviews and refactoring are a good idea, what happens if we go to the extreme and do continuous code reviews and refactoring? Thus was born the four core practices XP (with an example of each):
XP contains a lot of similar Scrum practices with the engineering elements that Scrum is traditionally missing.
Aligning Agile Across an Organization (If the Shoe Fits…)
At this point, we’ve begun to see that the three organizational levels (Executive, Project Management and Development) align quite nicely with three specific Agile process (Lean, Scrum and XP), respectively. While all of the Agile processes have commonality, their sweet spots are attuned to specific organizational levels: different “views” for different audiences. Lean shines when applied to those with a strategic, organization and shareholder value focus: the Executive. Scrum shines when applied to those with a team organization, management and project delivery focus: the Project Management. Extreme Programming shines when applied to those with a development delivery and tactical focus: the Development. Diagram 1.5 illustrates this concept.
Putting on our System Thinking caps for a moment (and never taking them off), we must remember to address the whole system and not individual parts. Apply Agile across an organization and not at any one single organizational level else we risk organization goal misalignment and an increased chance of failure, or at least less successful than we could have been.
For Your Consideration
What about the technicalities of managing three Agile processes across an organization? In other words, how do you actually make it work? While that answer goes beyond the scope of this article, please consider the following as a potential guideline.
As we all know, companies’ culture and organizational breakdown can differ greatly. At one financial company where I worked, the high-level Managing Directors often boasted that they could still code with the best of them. The corporate focus leaned more towards a tactical mind-set, i.e. XP. In other words, a company’s unique culture and organization will determine the appropriate Agile fit; whether applying Lean, Scrum and XP to the afore mentioned three organizational levels or a mixture of Agile process to the unique corporate tiers. So remember two things: first, Agile promotes fluid and adaptable processes, thus you can practice the “Agile Way” of keeping what works and leaving out what doesn’t. Second, always “System Think” and apply across the organization and not to a single part.
We can view an organization at three levels: the Executive/Project Management Office (PMO), the Management/Project and the Development/Delivery. These levels, each with their own focus, goals and mind-sets, perfectly align with the sweet spots of three Agile processes: Lean, Scrum, and Extreme Programming. By applying these three processes across the organizational levels (System Thinking – applying not just to a single organizational level), we increase our chance of adoption, productivity and general success.
I believe that we are on the verge of inventing a new way of looking at Agile: a maturation and simplification of Agile from numerous processes to a few or even one. Perhaps even a new process might emerge that addresses the needs across an organization. However, creating a new process will take significant fortitude and community accord. As Albert Einstein noted, “Three Rules of Work: out of clutter find simplicity; from discord find harmony; in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
Carnegie, D. (1981).