What Does It Really Mean to Be Agile? with Adam Ulery


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This week, Dan Neumann is joined by his colleague and repeated guest, Adam Ulery.

In this episode, Dan and Adam are exploring the true meaning of being Agile, which is often a subject of discussion. Dan recently found the work of two researchers named Corey Baham and Rudy Hirschheim on the theoretical cores of Agile which provides valuable information about the identity of Agile.

Key Takeaways

  • What does Agile mean?
    • The four cores of the Theoretical model on Agility in the mentioned research are validity, inspection and adaptation, working collaboratively, and continuous customer involvement.
  • Going superficially vs. deeply into Agile:
    • A superficial approach is when people go through the motions or practice Agile behaviors and activities, maybe not fully understanding the reason why they are doing what they are doing or the benefits implied.
    • Going deeper into Agile means seeking a better understanding of the reasons behind your behavior.
  • Agility at the Team level:
    • An example of a superficial approach to Agile can be when a person is named the product owner, then he/she gets a list of tasks to do, and maybe even is required to check before doing anything. There are cases when the new product owner also takes on the new role on top of a previous list of accountabilities, resulting in a very superficial approach to the functions.
    • Not going beyond the functions of your role can also be a superficial way to execute a role.
    • A deep way to develop the role is to begin to understand its true purpose and to remove the barriers preventing the achievement of those goals.
    • The whole Team must be aligned when the priorities change.
    • The environment has to add value to the Scrum framework.
    • A tight partner of alignment is discipline; the team has to say no to the things they shouldn’t be working on.
  • At the leadership level, the Scrum values have to be deeply understood.
    • Superficially, a leader has a general understanding of Agile, more in terms of a process, another way to manage projects.
    • An Agile Leader has an understanding of Agile as an effective tool to help the organization to achieve the outcomes it wants.
    • An Agile Leader removes the impediments for the Team to exercise the Agile values.
    • The whole Team must be aligned when the priorities change.
  • Change isn’t easy.
    • The whole Team must be aligned when the priorities change.
    • To experience great rewards you have to put in the effort and go through the pain.

Mentioned in this Episode:

“Issues, challenges, and a proposed theoretical core of Agile Software Development Research,” by Corey Baham and Rudy Hirschheim

Lead from the Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking Into Breakthrough Growth, by Mark W. Johnson and Josh Suskewicz

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