2022: The Year of Disciplined Agile27 Jan 2022
Image by Josh Hild on Unsplash
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would call “apex” organizations recently—companies like Amazon, Apple, Tesla and others that set the pace not only in their industry but in business generally.
What is it about the way they work that sets them apart from the rest?
One thing is clear: They aren’t following a formula. They’ve evolved a way of working that is unique to their organization, and they are constantly fine-tuning that approach to drive continuous improvement within their teams and across the enterprise.
Isn’t that fundamentally what agile is about—figuring out how to work better and smarter rather than blindly following a prescribed approach?
These thoughts are particularly relevant in 2022. Many organizations still haven’t derived the benefits they expected from their technology or transformation investments—despite increased spending in both areas since the start of the pandemic. And the demands on our teams are only growing, as we seek to organize complex projects across disparate teams and, at times, across the entire enterprise.
So, let me offer a few thoughts for 2022 about how Disciplined Agile® (DA) may be able to help—not only in addressing these challenges but in helping us get back to our roots as committed agilists, who, like those apex organizations, are achieving continuous improvement by figuring out better, smarter ways of working.
Get your teams headed in the right direction in 2022
Let’s begin by admitting that we all get stuck occasionally. What we need to do in these situations is not double down on a particular prescribed path but to explore alternative approaches. That’s where DA comes in. The Disciplined Agile tool kit is the most comprehensive compilation of agile practices in the world, and DA can improve your Way of Working (or WoW), regardless of the framework you’re using. It’s agnostic, pragmatic, and—perhaps most important—adaptable to whatever situation you find yourself in.
Say your team is having trouble understanding how people actually use your solution. You’ve addressed this issue in the past by developing user stories, but that takes significant time and effort. The DA tool kit, however, offers a range of alternatives, including developing “personas”—detailed descriptions of archetypical users that can help you better understand and empathize with those users.
Or say you need to come up with a new funding strategy for an agile initiative. Your internal client prefers a traditional, up-front funding strategy and has raised issues with the Time and Materials approach that agilists often prefer to use and have tried and failed with it in the past. You’re at an impasse. The DA tool kit provides an ordered list of alternate funding approaches. And the Disciplined Agile Browser explains when and when not to implement each one, enabling you to choose the most appropriate strategy to experiment with—rather than failing fast you can instead succeed early applying the DA tool kit.
DA, in short, allows you to launch successful experiments so you can improve. Our mantra is:
- Start where you are—whether you’re using Scrum, SAFE or even non-agile WoW
- Do the best you can
- Always strive to do better
Empower your teams to support projects… and non-projects
Projects are a set of actions having a defined purpose and a clear beginning and end. Increasingly, however, we’re called upon to optimize the flow of business value on an ongoing basis. Such value stream management starts and ends with the customer and involves continuously improving the flow of value over time.
Consider product managers, for example. They’re responsible for continuously enhancing the value of their product, whether on an annual basis—as with new car models—or in smaller increments as products are improved over time. Or think about services. Apex organizations are always looking for ways to improve the experience of users as those users interact with the product or with the organization itself.
DA can help your teams move from being project professionals to value stream managers—a role that’s increasingly in demand. Indeed, a recent Gartner survey found that 42 percent of organizations are embracing value stream management. This way of working has become so important, in fact, that we’ve developed the Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant (DAVSC) Certification to help project professionals adapt and deliver greater value to their organizations.
Help your teams leverage agile outside of the IT world
While agile has its roots in software development, it has potential application in many other industries and can even help teams work better with colleagues in different functions—such as finance, marketing or procurement. People in these industries or functional areas may have very different backgrounds, viewpoints and priorities than we do, but we still need to work effectively with them.
DA is particularly helpful in these situations because it’s highly pragmatic and allows for hybrid solutions. That may even mean doing things in a less agile way, if it makes sense for the organization—say, for example, if it’s a highly regulated industry. In fact, we’ve begun developing micro-credentials in areas like agile metrics.
Our goal in all this is to help individuals, teams and organizations work smarter so they can drive the change and transformation they want to see. In our fast-moving world, we can’t be limited by overly prescriptive frameworks. We must take responsibility for evolving our own agility—not to “fail faster” but to succeed earlier. Like apex organizations, we must continually flex to find the way of working most suitable to the challenge at hand.