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Agile: NatureΓÇÖs Way of Managing, Sustaining, and Empowering an Organization

18 January 2012

How to lead a comfortable, productive, and prosperous life: It’s a centuries-long tradition that humans have learned from nature which took billion of years to form. So, does nature offer any management thoughts on how to build a large scale, sustainable, and empowered organization? A little introspection shows us the answer is yes. Have a look at this chart to see the parallels between nature's way of mangement and the Scrum way.

Agile thought framework for growth

Business Essentials: Value should supercede plan; Priorities clearly defined; Features differentiated from scenarios.

Recent studies have shown that waterfall projects either fail or don't achieve their effectivenes due to deviation from requirements like time to market or cost vs benefit issues. Within the Agile process, deviation is addressed by re-prioritizing backlog from feedback of already developed features. Time to market is addressed by keeping a prioritized backlog. Cost overrun is addressed by differentiating features from scenarios. In event of cost overrun, a functional product can be released with most of its features even if some scenarios aren't covered. In order for Agile to be effective, it's essencrucial that we collect our requirements (split features in to scenarios then prioritize and assign value. Should we fail to do so, then we are essentially following a waterfall methodology, but in Sprints.

IT Essentials

Effectiveness should supercede efficiency (Lean Principle); Frequent and small changes.

One of reasons we practice Agile is to improve the probability of success and time to market of our products. From an IT perspective, it should be understood that delivering the features as efficiently and quickly as possible does not increase the effectiveness of the product. Instead, IT should engage with the customer during implementation to effectively reprioritize the feature/product backlog based on the change in customer/market requirements, then try to deliver them as efficiently as possible. Effectiveness should supersede efficiency. If  not, then we will once again be following a waterfall methodology, but in Sprints.

Frequent and small changes decrease the risk of major failure and improve system traceability. In the case of system failure, this ensures quick and effective action. To achieve this, sound Lean engineering practices like continuous integration, TDD, unit test case development, automated testing, and regression testing need to be built around development.

Facilitators of Growth

All the Ceremonies, Artifacts, and Roles in Scrum are facilitators of growth that enable great business value proposition, and risk taking. They also allow for experimentation, a self-aligned and empowered team to achieve a large scale, and a self-sustained and empowered organization -- just like Mother Nature. In the end, Agile is a discipline that requires a behavioral change among the community. Once achieved, even waterfall can become Agile.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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