There are many good reasons to consider agility. For instance, you could believe in the largely untapped creativity, motivation and self-responsibility of employees. Or you could recognize that a plan-driven approach to tackle complex problems is less suitable than an empirical one. And, of course, you could have the desire to radically focus on customer value and optimize the value stream accordingly. However, if you prefer to stick to the old ways of thinking, you certainly should avoid these considerations. Instead book titles such as “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” by Jeff Sutherland (a book worth reading and helpful by the way) lead to a fatal fallacy: Agile methods are sort of concentrated feed that will boost the performance of your employees.
User Stories are maybe the best known concept from agile software development. Unfortunately it is also one of the most misunderstood concepts. Let’s clear up the three most common misconceptions: User Stories are not part of Scrum, they are not tiny specifications and it is not the product owner writing them.
In order to understand agility from a historical perspective, it is important to go back to the principles of lean management. Agility in the sense of the Agile Manifesto from 2001 can thereby be seen as the application of the five principles of Lean to software development. The focus of agility is on the rapid delivery of customer value through working software. And the optimal flow for this comes from an interdisciplinary and self-organizing team that covers the complete value stream from the idea to operating the software.
Many companies appear to have forgotten the very purpose of their existence. Most employees therefore answer the question about the purpose of their employer with the apparently correct answer: “To make profit”. But profit is never an end in itself; rather, it is like the air we breathe to survive and yet our lives thankfully do not consist only of breathing. Profit is therefore only a necessary condition for the survival of the organization and the yardstick for properly fulfilling an important purpose for the customer.
In the transition from the industrial age to the age of knowledge work, the relationship between employees and their organization changes fundamentally. Dependent workers increasingly become independent knowledge workers who carry their means of production in their heads. The organization is therefore more dependent on knowledge workers than vice versa. In this transition, the network replaces the hierarchy as the leading organizational principle. Leadership is therefore no longer based on subordination and obedience, but now aims at the self-leadership of the people entrusted to it.