Find Your Agile

Ever come to the point that trying to fit an already made agile framework in your organization that does not fit so perfectly? Can’t find a good fit to own the Scrum Product Owner role?  I come across this issue a lot. The current frameworks are great and yours can be too. How do you get there? By starting with them. Let’s think about the Shu-Ha-Ri  that Alistair Cockburn introduced back in the day (excerpt below from Martin Fowler’s post in 2104.)

  • Shu: In this beginning stage the student follows the teachings of one master precisely. He concentrates on how to do the task, without worrying too much about the underlying theory. If there are multiple variations on how to do the task, he concentrates on just the one way his master teaches him.
  • Ha: At this point the student begins to branch out. With the basic practices working he now starts to learn the underlying principles and theory behind the technique. He also starts learning from other masters and integrates that learning into his practice.
  • Ri: Now the student isn’t learning from other people, but from his own practice. He creates his own approaches and adapts what he’s learned to his own particular circumstances.

Agile in your company is that same journey. Let me be clear, it is a journey and there is a methodical approach in this journey. Ad-hoc agile is not what I mean. Use these tools tested to work and evolve from there; like a pattern to make a dress. I use this analogy thinking of my Mom and how she used to sew holiday dresses for my sister and me when we were kids. We were stationed in Guam (military brat) and this island has a year-round tropical climate. I was the child that had to be difficult. I would pick the cutest pattern that did not always match my needs. I saw potential in it and would ask my Mom, “Can you cut the sleeves off?” My Mom would say, “Sure. I can still use the pattern and will make it our own.”

dress pattern

Here are some steps using Shu-Ha-Ri and Lean Start-Up to use for your journey to be agile.

  1. Pick an agile framework that best meets the problems your company is trying to solve at the team level- (customer, product ownership and team.) Scrum, XP, Kanban?
  2. Begin your SHU stage and learn it as intended
  3. Evolve into the theory and principles behind this framework – HA
  4. Retrospect on your agile framework –Inspect and Adapt by using fun techniques like Game Storming
  5. RI– Remember the TV show McGyver? Be just that. Create your own approach in solving what is not working for you in order to get the state you envision while adhering to the agile principles and values.
  6. Utilize Lean Start-Up
    1. Formulate your hypothesis to solve the problem,test your hypothesis and measure its success
    2. Pivot- rinse and repeat until you achieve your goal

Maybe you may be the next Menlo Innovations where people come to their company to learn what unique way to be agile.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Alan Watts


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