Monday, April 23, 2018

Machiavelli knows agile.

Machiavelli, knows some things about agile.
The agile reformation is all about satisfying customer needs, improving product quality, moving quickly and maintaining a sustainable pace of work.  These differing prerogatives require changing the way we think about work and looking at problems differently.  It means for agile to be successful a scrum master or coach must lead change.

Many times, I feel like Don Quixote jousting at windmills around the office. During a down period, one of my product owners pointed out a quotation from Machiavelli.
“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” 
Leave it to the prince of political manipulation to provide me with some fodder for my blog.
Change is hard because people prefer to have routine and ritual in their lives.  Also, people who benefit from the way things are will resist change because they might lose authority, money or status.  It is easy for individuals to see reform as a zero-sum game with a gain for someone else equal to a personal loss.  It is a pathology which I see in both technical and business professionals.

On the business side, it is a huge culture shock to work side by side with technical professionals.  Now they discover the systems and technology they take for granted is not the result of magic.  They collaborate on the authoring of requirements, and they have “skin in the game,” when it comes to the success or failure of an initiative.  No longer will the alibi of, “…it is technology’s fault,” work in an organization behaving in an agile fashion.

The rapid feedback is a benefit to both the business people and technology staff.  It avoids “death march” projects.  The days of building software which does not drive value to the business disappear with each iteration.  A software project can quickly pivot to new regulatory or market needs.  Finally, the CFO will see a reduction in cost overruns and failing projects.

Agile not only changes the business professionals who practice it; agile changes technology professional who follow it.  Developers begin to understand the challenges the business faces.  An engineer sees business partners as equals and worthy of respect. Writing unit test and performing automated deployments build trust with business partners as bugs and defects decrease.  The arrogance of software professionals being the smartest people in the room gives way to the humility of helping others succeed.  The hacker ethos of development gives way to a more professional perspective.

Agile is not perfect.  The reformation is only eighteen years old, but it is growing and improving.  It is starting to become the de-facto technique of doing new software development, and it is spreading to other areas of business.  Change is perilous.  Getting knocked off your horse is not fun, but nothing worth doing is easy.  The reformation is not going to stop and you either lead, follow or get out of its way.

Until next time.