My Agile Way ...

I've been thinking, for a looooong time, about my approach to Agile.  I think I approach things a little bit differently to how many others do - especially consultants & scrum coaches - though if if I were to draw a venn diagram there'd be an enormous overlap.  

The thing is, though, that I don't want to come across as claiming I'm better because I don't believe that.  I'm an ideas guy and I proudly borrow other people's ideas, dump many of them, keep the rest then merge them into a big Clarke-TOC-Agile soup. Maybe some of what I write next will be useful to you. Maybe not.  

If I come across as a dick ... that might just be because I am one.  

Part of it is that I don't think of myself as doing Agile, so much as Agile on top of TOC.  So I look for bottlenecks,  I limit WIP,  I draw CRTs and clouds (often in my head) and I use Goldratt's change models. I'm heavily influenced by Critical Chain and the TOC operations approach (as per The Goal) but even more by the TOC retail and distribution solution and Goldratt's throughput accounting.  Take all that, layer on scrum training in 2004 (or 2005) from Ken Schwaber and some time in Don Reinertson's and the Poppendiecks heads, and hundreds of books on lean, finance, marketing, and economics then loads of thinking and writing and you end up with me now. 

On top of all that, about 10 years ago I recognised that the biggest thing limiting me professionally was my utter lack of credibility.  I've never had the dress sense, ambition or smarts to work in a professional consulting organisation. And, although I'd successfully delivered a few significant projects when I lived in New Zealand, I just didn't fit in to the (prince 2 style) project manger roles here in the uk. I'm a nerd, fundamentally, and back then I had the political smarts of a newt (a species renowned for their drunkenness). I had an MBA and loads of potential but no audience. So I started writing a book and articles and a blog, all with the aim of figuring out how to gain an audience that would listen just a bit. I read loads of books on writing, which helped, but then I stumbled across Cialdini's work on influence and the Heath Brothers' most wonderful book, Made to Stick, then later their book on change. I also learned about making and managing commitments, from the work of Fernando Flores. 

Skip forward to now and what I do is a version of Agile which is "made to stick" around, as much as that is possible.  A lot of agile old-timers, especially those from a programming intensive or XP background will think I've compromised Agile, but I don't think so.  I work with older, larger organisations which have older technology, older employees and big legacy systems. I've figured out a way of helping these guys - many of whom are extremely cynical about agile, understandably I think - get many of the benefits of agile rather, frankly, than none. 

I've not shared any details have I?  Not yet, anyway. 

I will leave you with two thoughts: 

1.  Nowadays I am much more of a politician and a salesman than I ever thought I would be. Twenty years ago I would have detested me!  Nowadays I realise that those are the skills - plus tenacitity and patience - which make the difference if you want to change the world.  

2. I now have several significant success stories up my sleeve but I know virtually nothing about the products the teams have built or how they worked. That is possibly the key here: they've figured it out themselves.  

So, am I dick or not?  If you'd like me to share more then let me know.  I call my approach "quiet and slow agile" and it's made to be sticky, but I'm also a bit nervous talking about it ...



clarke ching3 Comments