The Agile Tribe

Agile's secret sauce – Part 1.

on October 14, 2010

Authors: Tracey Kay and Julian Coldrey

Welcome to Part 1 of our series on a real case study of working Agile and what we have learned.

Let’s be clear right from the beginning, WE ARE fans of Agile. After going on a multi-year journey from the warm, cuddly, but ultimately illusory security blanket of Waterfall to the extreme sports vibe of a functioning Agile environment, we know the benefits of Agile first hand. Team empowerment, distributed problem-solving, stepping up, across, and even — occasionally – down; Agile is simply a great way to get things done! We’re currently working on a large, geographically distributed project to deliver a snazzy new insurance claims system. Challenging as it has been, we don’t know how we would have made it to the point where we’re at, almost ready to drop our first production release only a few months after starting to code, if we had been working any other way than Agile.

As much as we dig storywalls and retrospectives, we don’t credit our progress to Agile practices. Sure, Agile has a great toolkit of techniques that can help the team understand and manage what needs to be done but …… teams with low Agile maturity often hone in on the more tangible aspects of the methodology: standups, story cards and so forth. Yet time and time again, we’ve seen teams go through the motions and ultimately struggle, even though on a superficial level they are doing “everything right.”

SO WHAT IS THE SECRET SAUCE THEN? Put simply: CULTURE and, because culture is driven from the top down (ie. the leadership team) the right culture creates an environment for a productive set of values and behaviours to emerge. It is the culture, not the mechanics of Agile, that infuses Agile practices with the right intent. Culture, not a wall covered with sticky notes, enables sustainable pace, quality and collaboration. In fact, experience tells us that, without an appropriate culture, working Agile is pointless.

Now that’s a lot of italics, let alone ideas, to cram into one paragraph. And we don’t mean to suggest we’ve nailed it in our project. However, the closer we’ve come to the right team culture, the more effective our Agile practices have been; the better the team has worked; and the more confident we’ve been in reaching our goals.

In part 2, we’ll look at some aspects of the team culture that have helped our delivery the most.

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2 responses to “Agile's secret sauce – Part 1.

  1. […] « Agile’s secret sauce – Part 1. […]

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