Jiri Lundak

QCon Day 5

In Agile, Team on March 17, 2007 at 11:44 am

As I had to fly back home on Friday afternoon, the report on Friday’s sessions is quite short. Although I wanted attend the planned Open Space on “Reflecting on your Agile journey – How do we reach Mastery?” led by Deborah Hardman and Diana Larsen, I just did not make it. This mainly, because in parallel there was still an Agile track going, with too much of good content. So I had to sacrifice something. 😦

I decided to hear what my friend Joseph Pelrine had to say about “When Agile Hits The Wall – Dealing with the organizational challanges of Agile adoption”. Joseph’s talk was video-taped, so I hope it will be available as Video-Stream somewhere from the conference website soon. At least they promised to make the material available.

In his entertaining and metaphorically rich manner Joseph showed why there are fundamental clashes in an organization, when some part of it (like a team) tries to adopt Agile values and practices. Sometimes all goes well within one team, but as soon as the team tries to reach outside its zone of influence things seldom work out as expected. Actually even resistence and suppression can be the response.

Joseph compared going to fast with Agile adoption with running downhill – if you let go, you accelerate and accelerate until you go to fast and stumble over your own feet – a nice metaphor. Your organization might well feel fear and threat and build “antibodies”.

So the first step for resolving anything is to know the problem space and to capture the force that are at work within the organisation. Usually there is a clash in the unterstanding of “cause and effect”. Often management and an Agile team live in two different worlds. Management often remains stuck in a Newtonian world view, while the Agile team embraces a Complexity Science based approach. These are not compatible with each other.

The Newtonian point of view is that cause and effect are directly linked and can be traced and linked together in advance and with some effort can lead to the predication how a system will behave in the future.

The Agile team instead operates in the Complex realm. In this quadrant there is no direct link between an effect and its cause(s) observable, let it be predictable. Instead things can be only judged in retrospect, knowing how things evolved (this is called “retrospective coherence”).

In this realm we can not know in advance what will influence our system and how the agents within the system will react. Such a system we usually find, where people are involved, because people do not act deterministically. To many factors to influence us.

This is also, as Joseph stated, why a simple Inspect -> Adapt loop does not work. Joseph pointed out, that we need first to act, before in a complex environment something happens and any inspection is possible. So he extended the loop to: Apply -> Inspect -> Adapt.


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  1. Thanks for all the great blog coverage Jiri!

    Floyd
    QCon co-organizer
    InfoQ co-founder

  2. Thank you Floyd. You’re welcome.

    Thank your making QCon what it was. And thanks for the good work with InfoQ. Well done and very informative content.

    Jiri

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