“Becoming agile means more than just adding new content to your baggage of experience”
At last month’s JAX conference, Wolfgang Pleus talked about the growth of the Agile movement and the trends that are particularly exciting right now. We caught up with him to dive deeper into the Agile topic.
JAXenter: The agile movement has come a long way; it started out as a grassroots movement but gained popularity real quick. What fascinates you about the agile movement?
Wolfgang Pleus: I think Agile techniques are currently the most efficient way to produce digital products. It is due to the constant reflection and improvement that leads to the creation of more fitting procedures, which are in return more appropriate for the product and the teams. The solutions vary depending on the context, for example when it comes to finding the appropriate granularity and depth of user stories. The work in this environment is very creative. I always find that exciting.
JAXenter: And yet there are still a lot of traditional companies out there which find it difficult to become agile. Why is that? What are the typical obstacles?
Wolfgang Pleus: Everyone carries their own baggage of experience, values and possible courses of action, which they acquired during the course of their personal and professional development. This often happens in a non-agile environment. But becoming agile means much more than just adding new contents to your baggage. That would be comparatively simple.
In this case, existing content must be removed in order to make room for new things. A process of learning again, so to speak. And when it comes to traditional companies, being agile is often equivalent to cultural change. For many of these companies, it’s still a long way to go.
When it comes to traditional companies, being agile is often equivalent to cultural change.
JAXenter: You talked about Agile teams at the JAX conference last month and how they might have a negative connotation because being self-organized might mean that management is losing control of the team. What’s the best way to make sure self-organized teams still adhere to all software requirements?
Wolfgang Pleus: Feedback loops are the key. Or to quote the Scrum Guide: Transparency, verification and adaptation. Coupled with a very close cooperation in a context of trust. Scrum transforms all this into a well-oiled ritual through reviews, retrospectives and refinements. A framework like this helps to create products, which meet the requirements of the user quite well. And guidelines, such as the current General Data Protection Regulation, are also taken into account in the same way as with the traditional procedure.
JAXenter: Although you say that this can be achieved “in record time,” self-organization is not logically linked to faster results. It could even take a while because you must find your own path to success instead of following the “usual” path. There’s this misconception that we need stricter hierarchical structures in order to achieve shorter concept-to-market cycles. Why is that?
Wolfgang Pleus: Agile work is about learning and iteratively reducing inefficiencies; you also need to consistently focus on the product. Each new team goes through a learning phase, in which it develops and constantly sharpens its optimal mode. Fully developed Agile teams strive for continuous improvement and are thus in a position which enables them to produce value generating increments in a short period of time. In short, they can transform ideas into products. In essence, it’s a matter of consistently avoiding waste. And this results in a high delivery speed.
JAXenter: Which current trend of the Agile movement is particularly exciting to you right now?
If we’re talking about a practical implementation, Agile is still very far away from becoming a mainstream technique.
Wolfgang Pleus: You mentioned earlier that the Agile movement is now mainstream. And this is certainly true since there are hardly any organizations left that do not deal with it anymore. As far as I can tell, it’s still very far away from becoming a mainstream technique, if we’re talking about a practical implementation. The great attention helps to carry the topic also into ranges of the organizations outside of IT. This creates opportunities to pursue systemic approaches and to implement Agile approaches effectively.
JAXenter: What is the core message of your session?
Wolfgang Pleus: Successful software development is interdisciplinary and results from the meaningful interaction between technology, methods, and people.
JAXenter: Thank you!