Agilists Don’t Get the Enterprise View?

This content is syndicated from LitheSpeed's LitheBlog: Exploring Lean and Agile by Sanjiv Augustine. To view the original post in full, click here.


Every now and then, a viewpoint arises that the agile community just doesn't understand the reality in large companies. From my post to the PMI Agile CoP discussion list:

I can empathize with your frustration, having faced such challenges and myopia in certain circles. For example, there’s been an ongoing dialog about the role of management on self-organizing teams. See my Blog post http://lithespeed.blogspot.com/2009/11/self-organization-self-discipline-light.html for my own perspective. Wayne — I would echo Brad’s sentiment that you are not alone. There are several of us who have spent the last decade helping bring agility to large, mainstream companies. I would think that is why (at least in part) large, mainstream companies are going agile in an increasing way.

I also think it’s good to vent, so that we can hear what folks are really thinking out there and engage each other in productive discussion. However, I would caution against sweeping negative generalizations of any community: APLN, Scrum or the PMI. As someone engaged fairly closely with all three (Co-founder and current VP of the APLN, active CST, and Member, PMI CoP), I think folks in all the named organizations are making sincere and effective moves to take agile mainstream. I also believe that they are all sincerely working towards a pragmatic view of agility, albeit from their own frames of reference. Here are some anecdotes that should support my contention:
  • The CEO of the PMI was the keynote speaker at last year’s U.S Scrum Gathering. Close to half the attendees at that Scrum Gathering (as judged by a show of hands requested by Mr. Balestrero) were PMPs.
  • Personally, I have never seen or experienced the naïveté allude to at the APLN — either on the Board or at any of the chapters at which I regularly present. My present and past colleagues at the APLN: Jim Highsmith, Pollyanna Pixton, Bob Wysocki, Susan Fotajek, Kent McDonald and Todd Little to name a few, are all grappling with the same challenges you raise and take a very similar enterprise view as I do.
  • I have presented the same Agile PMO session that addresses governance and program management at the APLN (see http://www.aplnhouston.org/), the PMI (see http://www.pmiwdc.org/careerday2009-education#Sanjiv_Augustine) and the Scrum Gathering ( http://www.scrumalliance.org/events/105-orlando-scrum-gathering). Interestingly, I received very similar positive feedback from all 3 audiences.

While there are some voices in the agile community whose opinions might not hold sway in today’s corporate circles, I would respectfully request that we be careful not to paint everyone with the same brush. At the same time, I would also point out that these views are what move us to improve and get better as a whole even if we find them controversial today. For instance, we might question a Scrum industry leader’s belief that a self-empowered team should be allowed to select its own membership. Yet, in fact, that is exactly the norm at Whole Foods Corporation (From http://money.cnn.com/2007/09/26/news/companies/management_hamel.fortune/index.htm, “the underlying logic is powerful if unconventional: Whole Foods believes that critical decisions, such as whom to hire, should be made by those who will be most directly impacted by the consequences of those decisions”)
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Thanks again for some thought provoking comments, and I think it is through this sort of exchange that the next advances in agile management will arise.

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