In the middle of September 2015 Prague hosted the international Agile conference which was focused on news in Agile project management. There were also panel discussions with foreign guests like Vasco Duarte or Jurgen Appelo.
Agile Prague 2015 started out by David Hussman’s (Gordon Pask Award holder) keynote speech. The main message of his presentation called “How to Build the Wrong Thing Faster (and Learn from It)”, was aimed at all IT companies - the business should focus mainly on quality of a product and not on a development process itself.
David also mentioned that managers are still used to use the traditional way of leading the projects, and they haven’t understood the Agile change yet. It is absolutely necessary to stop doing precise math with inaccurate figures. We should admit that the final result depends on changes in customer requirements.
A Scrum team is more likely a Product team. Their maximum effort should be focused on the final result according to customer’s needs. However we should be aware that customers can’t be forced to specify their requirements in the full possible details. The future of the business and also of the development process is not so easily predictable.
From process to product > the biggest paradigm shift
Microsoft Zune was mentioned as an example of failure. This multimedia player (and supporting services) used to be a direct competitor to Apple iPod. However Microsoft company focused only on the development process itself and didn’t understand the customer’s needs.
The paradigm shift should be the main goal of the project management. It’s not important to strictly follow the process (and generate lots of reports), but concentrate on how many mistakes or failures happen and learn from that. In other words - the most important is to understand the final product and then adapt everything else. Continuous customer feedback is one of the action points which every development team should take into account.
“The truth is that smaller companies have better conditions for the described change thanks to less bureaucracy than bigger corporations”, David Hussman said at the end of his speech.
Anzeneering - don’t be afraid of failure
Joshua Kerievsky continued with the presentation about the work environment. The main factor affecting the people/team performance is reassurance - the feeling of safety in case of failure. Companies should endeavour to not blame anyone for his/her performance and rather support creative approaches to problem solving. If such a company culture is established, then any team/project has much more chances of success.
To not take a risk and just follow the safety and known path, can be sometimes riskier at the end.
Joshua also mentioned how totally different two teams could be. The first one has poor leadership, and also relationships between colleagues are not so good as they could be. Team members basically compete with each other and there is lack of trust. The second team is the exactly the opposite of the first one. Which one of them has morelow achievers?
Well, this could be a surprise for someone, because the answer is - the second team. Although this sounds a bit strange, the reason why this is happening is very simple - if you have a group of people where no one is “punished” for his/her faults, and also no one competes with each other, then team-mates are more willing to take chances (finding new ways to achieve a goal).
Don’t be afraid of failure and learn from mistakes - that’s the secret of every success. Trust between the colleagues is the basic prerequisite, which allows you to explore different approaches how to achieve your desired goal (which is a great product).
System transformation into Creative Economy
The need for change of the contemporary system was the main topic of the whole conference. Jurgen Appelo, the author of the book called “Management 3.0”, introduced the term, called Creative Economy, or Creative Industries. Creative Industries refers to a range of economic activities which are concerned in the generation or exploitation of knowledge and information.
However the modern managers have to realize that knowledge is not the most important factor for the business success anymore. The demand is mainly for creative employees (smart creatives). They are not evenly allocated on projects, but they are willing to shift between teams, etc…
Raise of Creative Economy reflects the development of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), internet and globalization in general. This ensures the transformation of business models and also significant social changes.
Management should create and keep such an environment which allows people to come up with interesting and remarkable ideas. Based on experience of many companies, Jurgen Appelo outlined several steps, how management should cultivate a workspace and help employees to achieve their desired goals:
- nurture diversity (cross-functional teams of people - mental diversity, not physical diversity)
- create markets (credit people for contribution to projects)
- rely on merits (evaluate people by peers, create internal stock markets of ideas)
- make no predictions (managers keep many options open)
- update the workspace (the workspace should enable creativity
- change constraints (optimize learning, not just results)
- open boundaries (more transparency, fewer secrets)
Jurgen Appelo was not the only one who talked about management changes in the age of Creative Economy. Also another well-known guest, Vasco Duarte, outlined his prediction of the future development.
He pointed out that it is not easy to identify the concept of causality in the complex system. The main problem is, that actions which were taken to solve some issue, may not work next time. The management has to realize that it is impossible to predict the future development in detail. Someone can say that we can use models and inputs based on the passed situations, however models have one major problem - they work hard with exceptions. A model is just a viewport of reality and it represents one known state. It’s very hard to simulate the real world with all randomnesses.
There were also case studies of companies like MSD, Seznam or Avast at the conference. The speakers presented their experiences with the implementation of Agile methodologies.
Agile Prague is one of the first international conferences in the heart of Europe. The conference is wide open for developers, testers, managers and all Agile believers.