Comments on Agile, Scrum and Lean

From my mentor son in London…
Some thoughts…
Your part about the short turnaround times in Agile actually alludes to concepts in Lean. In Agile the short cycles are based on the idea that planning the scope of a job upfront is destined to fail because that is the time you know the least about what you’re doing. There is a key concept in this approach called “failing fast”. That is to say we need to have methods of finding out when our assumptions are false, and to iterate or abandon. Ideas are cheap in this world, because they are only considered to be the starting points for new directions, rather than “THE IDEA” as a spec that can be implemented and assumed to succeed. As such, there is a general feeling that ideas should be shared rather than protected.
I’m “reading” (audiobook) a book by the founder of Pixar at the moment called Creativity Inc. Some of it would be of great interest to you. One of them is that they have what they call “the Brain Trust”. Within a film production, the director has complete control, but there are often (every quarter or so) screenings of progress to “the Brain Trust” (essentially the elders within the company) where they provide candid (he prefers this to “honest”) feedback to the director. The key part of this is that the Brain Trust can’t tell the director what to do. Their job is to identify problems and suggest solutions, but the true solution is up to the director.
The role of the Product Owner is to be the champion of the customer. In Agile parlance, the “customer” is whoever is going to be using the product. In your case the product is Oasis.
My understanding is that The Scrum Master is essentially a powerless facilitator whose role is to protect the self-organised team, clear blockages and convey information to the development team. They can’t tell anyone what to do.
“command and control” – there is quite a lot of talk of “ask for forgiveness, not permission”, and “bias to action” in the company cultures in the tech sector. That is to say, if the workers are smart people aligned to a broader vision, they should be empowered to make decisions without explicit permission.
Retrospectives – there is a part of Scrum that I think you would really find valuable. At the end of each iteration the team holds a special session where they talk about how things went. Some teams use this as a time to thank their colleagues for help. The focus is improving the process – what could we have done better; which parts of our processes are useful and which parts are wasteful. In this way, every team ends up running their own flavour of Agile as they sculpt the process to match their needs. This is one part of the process that we don’t do, but I would very much like to.
I really enjoy this stuff, and will be excited to see how you get on implementing it within your team. I think the key for you will be getting buy-in from all involved, and introducing the ideas gradually.
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