A Call to Rethink What We Call Agile

Making A Call to Rethink What We Call Agile

Suppose you wanted to have a party where people were happy they came.  You hire a catering group to run the party and provide food for your guests.  They come to your home and you discuss what you want, they go to the grocery store and come back with all the food they’ll prepare and cook.

As guests start to arrive you get called away.  As you arrive back the party has ended but you wanted to know how it went so you ask the catering group for their feedback.  “We served the appetizers within 20 minutes of getting back, our fastest yet”, another caterer chimes in “20 people made it through the line within the first 5 minutes” and another “we made sure to discuss the recipes in advance and made sure we’re all in agreement on how best to prepare them”.

Do you feel there’s something missing in their response to how the party went?

With agile, let’s start with why a company wants to go agile – they want to respond to changes in the marketplace.  New competitors, products, industries, markets, regulations, and so on emerge, change and close down.

Yet despite this when we discuss how agile a company is, the conversation almost always focuses on velocity, cycle time, lead time, committed vs. completed work, and so forth.  If you were to ask about the metric of a change in the market to our response to this change, would anyone know the answer?  Is anyone measuring it?  If not, why not?  After all, this is why we’re going agile.

How This Might Look

Let’s consider some basic steps a company might take when naturally responding to changes in the market.  After realizing there’s been a change, they will meet to decide whether to respond or not.  If they decide to respond, they will then decide how to respond, after this they will potentially break the response into smaller incremental responses so they can gauge market response more quickly.

So a chain of events may look like this:

  1. Market threat/opportunity emerges
  2. Market thread/opportunity recognized
  3. A determination of whether/how to respond
  4. Decision on the initial response
  5. Deliver an incremental solution to market
  6. Observe and adjust

Yet when you talk about agile and the metrics that are used, do any of these come up?  Should they?  I believe they align with the concept of going agile.

A Visual Sample

Definition of Reaction Time