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01/22/2020  — 

Why is Agile Popular?

Believe it or not- I've been trying to invest a little more time writing lately. Part of this motivation comes from working on stories highlighting capabilities and success that the Lab Zero team has had in working with our clients. The ice-age this-here personal blog has experienced will warm, maybe even thaw. I recently put a quick answer onto Quora and figured I'd capture it here too.

Question: Why is Agile So Popular?

Short answer: Agile is not popular.

My answer will focus on the software world but there are many other ways to tell this story without the software focus.

The promise of Agility is awfully alluring for roles close to the work in a typical org: product managers, designers, and engineers. The way Agile prefers 'individuals & interactions' over 'tools & process' breathes fresh air into a normally stifled environment. Many see Agiles focus on working software over documentation as the right priority for a product team. Any product team will feel like theyre driving value into their company when theyre able to respond to change rather than merely follow a plan. Benefits abound for teams who wants a sustainable pace of work and a high level of accountability. Benefits abound for organizations who want unstoppable, self-organizing teams to drive value.

There are of course real practical challenges in moving a team to a new way of working in companies that havent already made the leap into Agility. Most people in the software world have encountered these challenges at some point in their career: people get tripped-up on writing / sizing / accepting stories, overloading sprints, and so on and so on. The friction that slows and challenges a teams adoption of Agile is real - even if a transformation is well funded and supported with coaches & experts.

But wait, theres more - all this agility must happen in the context of delivering software and driving results for a business. Chances are theres someone in the PMO (not to pick on Program Management) who wants some predictability in planning a portfolio of work. They have genuine needs involving knowing when reliable work will be delivered. The predictability they seek is critical to the success of the business. Even though Agile programs can be predictable, many aren't at first. How patient can a business be before it sees results from an investment in agility? (spoiler: not very patient)

Here's where it gets tricky- unless someone brings the leadership along, the agile transformation will fail. The work of connecting a plan with a vision forces leadership to take what can feel like a trust-fall. If you've ever helped a leader through their 'trough of despair' in adopting new tricks, you've seen why many agile transformations fail. Investment that doesn't serve a business is waste. No leader can waste time or money in pursuit of agility if it's not showing a benefit.

Most agile transformations fail at one of these levels: team, portfolio planning, leadership. Transformations will fail because teams lack clear signals showing where to focus training. Teams need access to experts in product management, design, and engineering - not just coaches. They will fail because planners aren't supported in working with agile teams. They will fail because leaders haven't bought-into their role in an agile organization. They will fail because leaders haven't seen the benefit to the business.

Sounds pretty bleak, huh? Well that's why you're on Quora, right? When I say 'fail' here I mean that the promise or potential of Agile is never realized. Instead, an organization will settle for some blend of old and new. If they're lucky they can see some small benefit. But the story doesn't have to be this bleak. With access to expertise (from outside the organization) and commitment (within) to driving change, any company at any scale can reach it.

Agile is a rare, beautiful thing - and really totally invisible to the people within it when working its best. I suspect very few software professionals will ever encounter this in their careers. Agile is not popular, but it's worth pursuing.

Go see it in the wild: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Agile-so-popular/answer/Chris-Greacen

12/20/2012  — 

2012 Overheards and Observeds

From my twitter and stokereport.com activity:

  • overheard: "clearly the Mayans didn't use UTC" Dec 20, 2012
  • overheard: "it's the borscht of goulashes." Dec 20, 2012
  • overheard: "we're gonna need a bigger whiteboard." Dec 15, 2012
  • overheard: "give me a sausage" Dec 12, 2012
  • overheard: "remember, the death star was never FULLY operational." #labzero #youprobablydontneedadeathstar Oct 26, 2012
  • overheard: "Sibby found a puffball." Oct 15, 2012
  • overheard: "Design Data structures" Oct 11, 2012
  • overheard: "STVCKTVN" #VCTVBER27 #hellomanatee Oct 11, 2012
  • overheard: "Taking bright ideas from birth to beta." #labzero Oct 04, 2012
  • Overheard: "innovation is really terrifying." cc @MorningEdition Oct 04, 2012
  • Overheard: "it's one of the joys of life... not to be confused with the jaws of life." Sep 28, 2012
  • overheard: "ERFECT FOR AMERICA'S CUP!!!!" Sep 14, 2012
  • overheard: "Schnitzel spƤtzle pile-up." Sep 07, 2012
  • overheard: "Schnitzel 3-way." Sep 07, 2012
  • overheard: "get the cat skins for nothing" Sep 05, 2012
  • Overheard: "mmm... wine" cc @donkeyandgoat Aug 27, 2012
  • overheard: "where do the lost packets go?" to the island of lost packets. Aug 25, 2012
  • overheard: "If he's Chief Architect, I'm pretty sure I'm Chief-ER Architect." Aug 25, 2012
  • Overheard: "it's seamless, but not painless." Aug 24, 2012
  • overheard: "all you need is a neutron generator stuck in your heart." Aug 22, 2012
  • overheard: "We have veraison!" Aug 14, 2012
  • overheard: "this is a song about things falling down. It's called Things Falling Down." Aug 14, 2012
  • overheard: "it's not healthy to eat brains" Aug 13, 2012
  • overheard:... | Facebook http://t.co/04hCQquZ Jul 26, 2012
  • overheard: "everyone wants eggs." Jul 18, 2012
  • overheard: "Disavow!!!" Jul 17, 2012
  • overheard: "Thanks, bud." Jul 03, 2012
  • overheard: "every email list is a cult." Jul 03, 2012
  • Overheard: "daddy, the color you call 'blurple' is actually called indigo" Jun 24, 2012
  • overheard: "Who you calling howly?" cc @SF_Windy Jun 21, 2012
  • overheard: "consumers AND merchants want their transaction to work." #commongoals Jun 20, 2012
  • overheard: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, it is a habit." Jun 19, 2012
  • overheard: "worst traffic I've seen in 25 years" Jun 14, 2012
  • overheard: "make friends, be nice" May 17, 2012
  • overheard: "doctor the body." May 11, 2012
  • Overheard: "talk nerdy to me." May 04, 2012
  • overheard: "moose and squirrel" #russianaccent Apr 23, 2012
  • overheard: "there's nothing but the iPad." Apr 20, 2012
  • overheard: "lose the pants, grab a beer." Apr 20, 2012
  • overheard: "we can't process this request." #yourareableepingrobot Apr 18, 2012
  • Overheard: "judge me by the content of my character, not the cut of my jib." Apr 03, 2012
  • overheard: "it has a convenient thumb slot" Mar 30, 2012
  • overheard: "That's a zero-billion dollar market." Mar 30, 2012
  • overheard: "minimum viably awesome" Mar 28, 2012
  • overheard: "Sinatra has ended his set (crowd applauds)" Mar 26, 2012
  • overheard:"clicchi qui." Mar 21, 2012
  • overheard: "I'm all copy, no paste." Mar 14, 2012
  • overheard: ""HOLY CRAP THAT LOOKS GOOD!" - you, just now." cc @vintageberkeley Feb 29, 2012
  • overheard: "dudes in tubes." Feb 29, 2012
  • overheard: "Uncle Nemus is bringing his washboards n spoons" Feb 23, 2012
  • Overheard: "Dad, don't speak french. It's hurting my ears." Feb 20, 2012
  • overheard: "That's a goat if I've ever seen one. That website has a goat on it." Feb 14, 2012
  • overheard: "I'm the goddamn glue." #kookookachoo Feb 08, 2012
  • overheard: "my credit card is on vibrate." Feb 06, 2012
  • overheard: "you moved my cheese" Feb 06, 2012
  • overheard: "It's like a crock-pot that makes booze." Jan 27, 2012
  • overheard: "I Left My Dongle in San Francisco" Jan 24, 2012
  • overheard: "go under the radar with G+" Jan 20, 2012
  • overheard: "chumby is angry" Jan 20, 2012
  • overheard: "I want a keg of sunshine and joy" Jan 13, 2012
  • overheard: "Thank you, Uncle Lev." Jan 13, 2012
  • Overheard: "walrus seems to be available." Jan 12, 2012
  • Overheard: "the yeti is ready to roar." Jan 07, 2012
  • observed: the glare of the sun. Seemed especially glare-y this morning. Maybe I need a vitamin pill.
  • observed: someone surfing atop my board. I know it's big, but c'mon.
  • also observed: dolphins!
  • observed: a (sail-less) sailboard connected to the anklebone via a piece of rope
  • observed: dolphins
  • also observed: fritters
  • also also observed: mirages
  • observed: a paddle out for Corwin Hardham: http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Corwin-Hardham-wind-power-pioneer-dies-3982587.php . Also, there's this: https://baykeeper.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=18 .
  • observed: everybody
  • observed: bearded twins?
  • observed: food festival
  • also observed: some interesting things elsewhere in the 'hood.
  • also also observed: Not Wave Glider.
  • observed: fritter.
  • observed: one of the water-sample guys locked himself out of his car. I took him up the road to get some help at a garage. Hope everything worked out. Did you know they're volunteers?
  • also observed: a bumpercrop of pumpkins.
  • observed: @tracey's sweet new board.
  • observed: lefts AND rights.
  • observed: giant dolphins
  • observed: some folks waaaaaaay out on one of the points.
  • observed: dolphins
  • also observed: I ripped the velcro strap clear off my leash.
  • also also observed: @tracey charging into a really nice SH+ one... w00t!
  • observed: No sun, just fog.
  • observed: fog, sun, fog, sun, fog, sun, fog
  • observed: lots of familiar faces. A few new ones too...
  • observed: Mercury in retrograde
  • also observed: a huge friggin crab. srsly. again.
  • also also observed: fritter.
  • observed: a crab that was bigger than a fritter.
  • also observed: something big and splashy waaaaay outside.
  • also also observed: rainbow!
  • observed: Farallones
  • observed: surf mafia
  • observed: jellyfish
  • observed: Pelicans, dolphins
  • Observed: crowds.
  • also observed: a baby otter. so cute!
  • observed: a few CG helicopters circling LM, RW, and Mori Point. Anyone know what was up?