This is the final installment of four articles tying the concepts, values, and principles of Agile and Scrum to the Customer Experience discipline. I introduced the series here, and parts one, two, and three are here, here, and here. In this article, I’ll dive into the concept of embracing change. Specifically, the Manifesto highlights this aspect of Agile project management as preferring to respond to change rather than following a plan.
Now, the idea here isn’t to not have a plan or that planning is somehow bad or discouraged. But keep in mind that the genesis of Agile as an approach to project management was a rejection of the rigid nature with which some PMs follow a plan, ignoring or wishing-away changes to the environment around them. As I mentioned in an earlier article in this series, when Customer needs change (as they always do), it won’t do to simply follow the plan as originally written and expect good results.
This concept should be simple enough, and it reminds me of the need within a good Customer-centric culture to not only enable our teams with the tools and processes to help our Customers at every turn, but also to empower them with the authority to leverage the tools. We have to trust our team members to do the right thing and have faith that they’re working in the best interest of our Customers. This allows them to respond to change with the end goal of satisfying our Customers rather than simply following our procedures.
Here are some Agile principles that seem to follow along this line of thinking as well:
Number 2: Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
This isn’t about just accepting of or being flexible with regard to change. “Welcome” is a bold posture. But it makes sense: Our Customers’ needs aren’t set in stone, and when we make ourselves more dedicated to their outcomes and solutions than we are to our way of doing things, we become more valuable to them, and they become more loyal to us!
Number 11: The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
This is another important aspect of empowerment for our teams. While it’s definitely the case that skills and proficiencies aren’t universally distributed among our teams (diversity there is crucial), it’s amazing what our teams can do when we unharness the power of their creativity and curiosity. Being held to rigid structures (like timelines and plans) deadens innovation. People have to know the role they play in the process, but it’s even better when insights and ideas (and hard work!) come from all corners.
Number 12: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
Specifically, in Scrum, this principle is referring directly to what’s called Retrospectives. At the end of every sprint, the team gathers to discuss what worked, what didn’t work, and what can be improved. It’s an embrace of the continual improvement spirit of Lean and Agile. More generally, though, Agile practitioners love to use the phrase “Inspect and Adapt” to direct their work. It’s important to pause from time to time, take a look around, and check to see that where you’re headed in the right direction. It’s not an invitation to take breaks or to admire your own work. It’s a gut-check to acknowledge, with clear eyes, where the team can improve what they’re doing. While Agile makes this explicit as the ultimate of their twelve principles, it’s a great practice and a fantastic philosophy for any team.
So those are the four themes of Agile and the twelve principles. You can see how, just as with many business disciplines, there are plenty of opportunities for synergy and leveraging of ideas across fields of profession. It’s my intention that these past few articles bring around a new perspective not only for my friends in the CX world but even those who work with Agile on a regular basis.