I attended an immensely thought provoking session "Joy of Agility" by Joshua Kerievsky in the Agile Summit 2022. Joshua brought a very different perspective about agile ways of working starting by referring to the definition of 'agile' from Merriam Webster dictionary.
Let us look at the definition before we discuss further.
1: marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace
an agile dancer
2: having a quick resourceful and adaptable character
an agile mind
Joshua took this definition further by relating the quick, easy, grace, resourceful, adaptable adjectives with how any of those contribute to being agile.
A very interesting illustration of what do we mean by being quick and what does it take to be graceful and why does it matter to be agile unfolded. Some counter-intuitive concepts brought from insights shared by Tom DeMarco in his book Slack and John Wooden in his books on coaching that got me reflecting on our agile projects.
Here are my three takeaways from the session:
"Being quick does not mean hurrying, rushing, or moving so fast that you are out of control."
Situations where teams get pressurized to be faster by hurrying, compromising on things such as testing, automation, early / continuous integration because they don’t have time are prevalent in many organizations. However this makes the teams lose control on the quality of the product in turn slowing down to fix the issues later. Because there was no slack built in the team rushing towards.
"If your company’s goal is to become fast, responsive, and agile, more efficiency is not the answer--you need more slack" - This insight from Tom DeMarco's book also relates very well with the "Sharpening the saw" habit by Stephen Covey. Taking time to think, innovate and reinvent oneself is a key essential to go fast. Teams or organizations that frequently retrospect, inspect and adapt are more responsive and fast than the ones that ignore the same in order to "go fast".
"Slowing down is essential for what Tom Wooden called 'quickness under control'"
A good slow indicates teams and organizations that take time to be intentional, learn from experience, build skills and design slack into the process. Slowing down here ensures that things are under control and not rushing through. Be it taking time for design and architecture decisions by bringing in relevant stakeholders or taking a step back to identify dependencies, integration points in a large program may sound slowing down in the beginning, but it can in turn bring the quickness under control.
"Balance helps us to be quick and graceful"
Balancing quick turnaround of features with ensuring supportability as well as customer feedback is fed back is essential for a product's success. Balancing the speed of development with cleaning up technical debt is critical to ensure retaining the speed as the product grows in size. As agile teams, balance of listening and speaking in synchronization meetings helps maximize self-management. This balance would help the teams or organizations to be quick and graceful.
Thanks Joshua for sharing the agile mantras to bring joy of agility! Looking forward to learn more from your upcoming book!
P.S. I found a video available of a shorter talk on the same subject by Joshua here in case you would like to listen in.
Image credit: Workout illustrations by Storyset