Agility

Yesterday our new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull talked about staying agile, trying to figure out what’s working and what not and to see where we have to adjust and where we can improve.

It’s true, our manufacturing policies of the 1980ies and 1990ies can’t work anymore, because that was before we had that economic power house China buying all our commodities. Now we have to adapt to the changes imposed by the emerging and faster and faster developing digital age.

What holds in politics holds as well in all other aspects of the economy.

The problem people have with agile development was nicely expressed by Waleed Ali during a radio interview yesterday, when he asked on how we could anchor this, that is how can we hold the prime minister responsible when he has the right to change his mind and to something else than promised before the election. I think in politics we will have to change our mindset and look at what the goals are and what was achieved in respect to those goals, not how. And if we figure that the goals were wrong, then we have to keep an open mind and feel free to change them as well.

In business the situation is not dissimilar, and the questions asked are similar too. “How do you measure the success of an agile project?” was one question asked recently on LinkedIn. The problem is that agile and project do not mix. You become agile because of the realisation that you cannot fix the requirements even for the time the project is developed. What use is it if you spend weeks and months to get the requirements and even in that process figured that requirements were shifting, just to nail them at some arbitrary point in time and start the project on those fixed requirements? You know that requirements will continue to change, and if you keep them fixed then all you have after two years is a measurable project delivered but out-dated already.

Even in the early days of computing in manufacturing, when computers cost millions and were not much smarter than a simple pocket calculator, I saw centuries old companies with top reputation go out of business because they were not able to handle that transition properly. The situation today has not changed. If you don’t adapt, you perish. So how do you measure success? At the bottom line! Yes right, that’s the overall success of the business, and a business is not only software you might say. Well, in the mass customisation projects we do, software is everywhere and it has become the critical success factor, although not the major cost factor.

But still- how do you measure the success of an agile software development? At every iteration of course! So don’t be scared, you don’t lose control, you get a lot more of it! However, you have to measure at every iteration, and to be able to do so you have to understand what’s going on. But nobody ever promised that better control means less work.

And don’t forget: Agile might have become big now in the software community, but you have to be agile everywhere. In your marketing, your product development, your production technology, your software, your distribution. A lot is changing now in all those fields and many more, and at an ever increasing pace. Scary? As Malcolm Turnbull put it, we live in exciting times. It’s not only threads, it’s a lot of opportunities as well.

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