Agile as Concentrated Feed to Increase Employee Performance

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.

Effectiveness Over Efficiency

Agili­ty is more about effec­tive­ness than effi­cien­cy. It is about doing the right thing in an unpre­dictable and com­plex envi­ron­ment rather than work­ing through well-known and planned tasks more effi­cient­ly. The focus of agili­ty is on deliv­er­ing cus­tomer val­ue quick­ly. On the one hand, of course, to gen­er­ate val­ue quick­ly. On the oth­er hand, how­ev­er, in order to gain empir­i­cal­ly sup­port­ed insights from the use by the cus­tomer for the fur­ther development.

Hen­rik Kniberg. Mak­ing sense of MVP (Min­i­mum Viable Product)

This pic­ture by Hen­rik Kniberg shows this empir­i­cal pro­ce­dure in the sequence at the bot­tom very nice­ly. With each deliv­ery, the cus­tomer can move a lit­tle faster, more com­fort­ably and more safe­ly. And the find­ings from the customer’s expe­ri­ence go back into devel­op­ment. This is why a con­vert­ible is cre­at­ed, because it has been dis­cov­ered that the cus­tomer appre­ci­ates fresh air. Of course, this is not the most effi­cient way to build a con­vert­ible, but it is the prop­er way if it is not clear which means of trans­porta­tion is needed.

If the lad­der is not lean­ing against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.

Steven R. Covey

System Optimization Instead of Agile Concentrated Feed

Employ­ees are not dairy cows and agile meth­ods are not con­cen­trat­ed feed. Agili­ty does not opti­mize the per­for­mance of indi­vid­u­als, but the per­for­mance, the val­ue stream and the added val­ue of the whole sys­tem in which these peo­ple do their work. 

A sys­tem is more than the sum of its parts; it is an indi­vis­i­ble whole. It los­es its essen­tial prop­er­ties when it is tak­en apart. 

Rus­sel Ackoff

The roots of agili­ty reside in the five prin­ci­ples of lean man­age­ment. Thus the Man­i­festo for Agile Soft­ware Devel­op­ment can be under­stood as the appli­ca­tion of these prin­ci­ples to soft­ware devel­op­ment. Based on the cus­tomer val­ue, the opti­mal flow is cre­at­ed in an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary and self-orga­niz­ing team that cov­ers the com­plete val­ue stream from the idea to the oper­a­tion of the soft­ware. The goal is to focus on the val­ue-adding process­es and work steps and to avoid unnec­es­sary effort.

Lean Man­age­ment is about opti­miz­ing the sys­tem and the flow of work in the val­ue stream. It is delib­er­ate­ly not a mat­ter of ful­ly exploit­ing the per­for­mance of the indi­vid­ual com­po­nents and employ­ees. In addi­tion to this waste through unnec­es­sary effort (Muda in Japan­ese), the Toy­ota Pro­duc­tion Sys­tem there­fore also men­tions over­load (Muri in Japan­ese) as anoth­er type of waste. And this prin­ci­ple of work­ing sus­tain­ably obvi­ous­ly was also impor­tant to the authors of the Man­i­festo for Agile Soft­ware Development:

Agile process­es pro­mote sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.  The spon­sors, devel­op­ers, and users should be able to main­tain a con­stant pace indefinitely.

Prin­ci­ples behind the Agile Manifesto

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