Beyond Scrum, Kanban and XP : The Total Agility framework of Four Quadrants©


Agile has been an enigma to a lot of people except for the geeks and evangelists.. And even they all had their own interpretation of ‘what is agile’.

Some say it is about ‘teamwork’. Some people swear by its technical practices that bring about the best in class product quality. Some talk about how the features are managed in chunks to bring about maximum business value and quick delivery.. In the end, the question, is ‘is it about being fast, is it about bringing high quality, is it about better managing client’s needs, or is it about building a high performing motivated team” ?

Every agile practitioner has a different answer. Sounds a bit like the proverbial blind men and the elephant, isn’t it?

Product quality, motivated teams, happy client, fast-paced delivery – that all sound like a lot to achieve…   The Utopia? I swear it can be achieved!

One of the main reasons why people get confused about Agile is because it is spoken in many dialects like Scrum, XP, FDD, Kanban … And most of the time, the people who speak these dialects forget to mention how all these can in fact, co-exist beautifully.

I remember once when I attended a scrum training (mainly out of curiosity) few years ago, the famous trainer refused to even address basic questions from the participants saying “that term doesn’t belong in scum!” Needless to say, there was lot of confused people who came out of the session including yours truly. It may not always be easy for a newbie to connect the dots.

It is only when I started practicing agile ( I prefer to go by ‘Agile’ -I wouldn’t use the dialects here), and literally inventing practical agile solutions to every day issues faced by our technology teams that you sort of put all the jigsaw pieces together and realize that, it all fits in perfectly well in the big picture!

In any software development scenario, the distinct sets of questions we try to answer are: (note they have been grouped into four sets)

  • How do you achieve best product quality?
  • Did we not have it before, why is the need to re-invent the definition of product quality?
  • What was wrong with what we have been doing so far?
  • How much engineering really is there in software engineering?

  • How can IT become true enablers to business rather than a bottleneck?
  • How can we work closely with business where we understand each other?
  • How do we prioritize what is most important to business and commit on that?
  • Can IT and business speak the same language?

  • How do we re-invent Project management in IT?
  • What are those PM practices that enable a self-running team?
  • What would be the role of a project manager in an agile team?
  • What all behavioral practices need to be inculcated for the team to be really agile?

  • Are agile teams a bunch of cowboys?
  • Can we see and measure the progress of agile deliveries?
  • Can agile be done at an enterprise level, or is it only confined to small teams and small companies?

Well, of these questions are deep enough be answered through an elaborate white paper….  what I am trying to do here is to attempt to uncomplicated agile in a simple way so that it can be understood equally by all stakeholders and they are able to unfold the blind and see the ‘elephant’ for what it really is J

If I were to go back to the set of questions above, I would categorize them into “Four Quadrants”:

  1. Ensuring Product Quality ( through engineering practices)
  2. Managing the Client/Business needs ( through product Management practices)
  3. Building self-running motivated teams ( through redefining project management practices)
  4. Ensuring performance management and enterprise-wide scalability (through Agile PMO practices)

Agile Four Quadrants

While this could very well represent the Four Quadrants© of enterprise agile implementation, are we missing anything ? What could be the other enabling factors ?

There are three other important aspects to have a real success with Agile. They are :

  1. Agile Infrastructure
  2. Human Capital development
  3. Thought leadership

Which brings me to the below ‘Total Agility’ model:

This would be our interpretation of ‘Total Agility’, or rather how the elephant really looks like…

It is easier said than done. When it comes to execution, each of these blocks are equally important and requires specific attention. That is exactly the reason why many transformations fail. We tend to focus only on very few topics (normally easy rituals like standup meetings, poker planning etc).  The tough ones are left for later, and the important engineering practices get ignored. Another common mistake is the inability or reluctance to measure. Anyway, will get into pitfalls of agile implementation at a later stage.

If we were to drill down into each of these blocks, we end up with specific value-added practices as shown below. Note the importance of CRM, Infrastructure and Human capital development in the overall framework. Also note how thought leadership and Agile PMO becomes important pillars in the success of the agile delivery.

Needless to say, each of these practices requires skills and expertise across all the stakeholders.

SciFi meets reality – User Experience Design

Minority ReportFrom the original Star Trek series to the film Minority Report, the technologies and interfaces of the “future” have offered audiences a sense of wonderment and provided a lens to examine current devices. Without sci-fi, would we have had the Motorola flip phone, which is suspiciously similar to Star Trek’s communicators? Would the iPad and Kinect’s successful use of gestural design been possible without the breathtaking control interface in Minority Report?

SciFi and other speculative interfaces can unlock possibilities for new interactions in any product or service. In his workshop on “How to Use Scifi to Create Better Interfaces”, interface design expert Nathan Shedroff will share lessons culled from imaginative interfaces unconstrained from traditional constraints, with examples, and prompts attendees to brainstorm around these lessons to unlock new aspects of their existing projects. Then, attendees will develop their own projects using these inspirations.

The workshop is a rare opportunity to explore interface design at a new level with one of the leading visionaries of user experience design and will be followed up by Nathan’s keynote presentation “Make it So: UX Lessons from Science Fiction”, which traces the lines of influence between sci-fi and reality, and investigates how the depiction of technologies evolve over time, how fictional interfaces influence the real world, and what lessons we can learn through this process.

When he’s not writing books and speaking to audiences around the world, Nathan is the chair of the ground-breaking MBA in Design Strategy at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco.

Chief mobility officer – Do you need one?

Mobile computing in all its complex, multifaceted, unstructured indigestible glory is on the plate of every IT leader and IT department. It can’t be avoided, and who would want to do so?

Organisations have talked about having a mobile strategy since the first the first director invited the rest of the board outside to admire their first car phone. Barely 20 years on, smartphones, tablets, laptops and netbooks are everywhere and shortly to be joined by ultrabooks.

They are all capable of helping employees, customers and business partners at the time and place that’s right for them.
In the excitement about creating a mobile organisation, it is worth asking whether you really have a mobile strategy, or do you have a series of stand-alone projects – which risk an avalanche of unintended consequences.

If you are building a smartphone app, business departments can squabble and compete over how it will work, and what it should include.
What about your e-commerce systems? They were built for transactions, while mobile computing is all about engagement – that is giving the end users something they need at the time and place they need it.

Your back-end infrastructure and middleware for e-commerce were designed for PCs access the internet. Mobile devices could create demands an order of magnitude greater, and fundamentally different in nature.

That is just the start. It is not just IT infrastructure that isn’t a good fit for a genuinely mobile organisation; it is IT governance and even the vision of the IT department that may not be a good fit for the demands of a mass mobile computing era.

A recent research paper from Forrester goes beyond the usual platitudes and hype to propose some practical action. It calls for organisations to consider creating a chief mobility officer, with a strong team and a remit which cuts across business functions and established IT domains.

The first item on the agenda should be to top slice the development budgets for building front end apps and spend use the cash on engineering infrastructure and middleware for the mobile revolution. The longer term goal though is to get the technical and business leaders alike to think in terms of engaging customers, on the move, as they go about their lives.

The CMO needs to be an evangelist, a diplomat and visionary who is tech savvy and can talk to business people in language they understand.
We are not living in another dotcom boom, with technology hype driven by an insanely inflated stock market. We are seeing a fundamental shift in technology, empowering potentially billions of people who love their mobile devices. This is your opportunity to get in their pockets.

Original article available on Computer World UK.

Resistance to Change


Resistance to Change

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. —C. S. Lewis

Resistance—What a Pain! (Or is it?)

If there was ever an aspect to organizational change that permeates our profession, it’s the need to address resistance. Reluctance, concerns, struggle, and opposition are all natural and healthy parts of the human transformative process. As such, surfacing, exploring, and addressing the views that run contrary to intended outcomes is as important to our role as is promoting understandingcommitment, and alignment toward realization goals.

The focus of this blog is the facilitation of fundamental transformative change endeavors. Within this context, is resistance difficult to deal with? Without question. Is it possible to achieve ambitious, dramatic change agendas without it being a central part of the implementationlandscape? Absolutely not.

As critical as it is to our work, some practitioners take the position that resistance is an unnecessary outcome that results from poor implementation planning or execution. I hold the opposite view —I see it as an intrinsic component to reaching full realization. Differences of opinion about issues as fundamental as resistance are worthy of open dialogue within our practitioner community. We will become a stronger discipline by sharing views on important facets of our profession, particularly when they represent divergent opinions.

Therefore, in this series, I’ll contrast my understanding of why some change agents see resistance as avoidable with why I believe it is both inescapable and central to achieving whatclients expect us to help them accomplish.

First, as best I can tell, there are three basic variations of the “resistance can and should be averted” contention:

  • There are those who believe all you have to do is listen to everyone’s concerns and empathize with their circumstances and they will cooperate.

While there is value in listening and being empathetic, in my experience, people are often offended by the notion that their apprehensions are seen as so inconsequential that a little “getting it off your chest” is all that’s needed.

  • Then there are those who believe venting isn’t enough, but that resistance can be dispelled by employing various “involvement” or “engagement” activities. The theory here is that the anxiety and discomfort people experience when their world is turned upside down will thin out, if not vanish, by asking them to participate in some way in the change process.

I’ve rarely seen this approach live up to its hype. In many instances, those asked to participate actually leave the process with less trust than when they entered because many of their questions are left unaddressed. Some even get the message that they “should” have been persuaded by leadership in the first place. When this happens, instead of showing sponsors how to surface and use resistance to their advantage, practitioners undermine them by leaving them thinking it is preventable; thus, they are ill-equipped to deal with it.

  • My personal favorite is when change agents proclaim that human resistance doesn’t actually exist. They take the position that people don’t resist change, only systems do.

This one is so counter to my experience that it is hard to fathom the logic. As I understand it, the view depends on an interesting balancing act between rejecting the existence of human resistance to change on one hand while at the same time recognizing its presence but blaming it on the organizational structures and processes within which people operate. It’s a bit convoluted to say the least.

I can’t claim to fully comprehend this thinking, but it seems to somehow play into victimizingtargets of change…portraying them as helpless against the overpowering dynamics that surround them. To the contrary, I can’t buy into this characterization because I’ve seen too many empowered targets of change significantly impact sponsor decision making. When resistance is properly brought forward to sponsors who genuinely value the target’s perspectives, they are able to influence both the changes that are approved and how they are pursued.

I guess it’s obvious that I disagree with these views. In fact, my experience has led me to believe that unless people register some degree of reservation about impending change, meaningful resolve for an initiative’s success can’t be developed. Doubt is an essential element in the commitment-building process and resistance is nothing more than an overt or covert expression of that skepticism.

The only set of conditions I have seen where resistance doesn’t materialize is when modest, incremental, or inconsequential changes are being attempted. Significant disenchantment can be largely skirted in these situations, but not when dramatic, fundamental endeavors are being pursued. With major change, resistance, in some form and to some degree, is always in play.

Bear in mind that this blog is not intended for the full spectrum of professional change facilitators. I’m writing for seasoned practitioners who are involved in complex, transformative initiatives. Imperative, multi-faceted organizational change efforts may be perceived as a wonderful new future or a horrible turn of events with disastrous implications. It all depends on the constituency you talk to. Either way, it involves humans in transition, and one thing you can bank on is that people will squirm and strain if asked to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances when there is a lot at stake.

Practitioners who promote resistance as a negative liability that can and should be prevented (instead of an uncomfortable but positive asset to be leveraged) do their clients a considerable disservice:

  • At a minimum, they lessen their own contribution to client success.
  • They often compound what otherwise could have been resolvable problems.
  • They miss the chance to identify concerns from the target’s perspective that can be mitigated early.
  • They bypass the prospect of targets feeling that sponsors want to hear their opinions, value their views and are eager to address what issues they can.
  • They squander their opportunities to prepare people for the reality of change.
  • They fail to capitalize on the chance for sponsors and targets to build mutual respect and interdependencies.
  • They cater to an unrealistic notion that somehow disruptive change can be achieved in a contented, conflict-free environment.
  • They foster superficial imitations of commitment rather than deep resolve.
  • They create environments prone to installing rather than realizing outcomes.

Practitioners who operate on the basis that resistance to major change can be averted jeopardize the intended outcome of their assigned projects and erode their own credibility in the process. For example, executives facing sophisticated, enterprise-wide initiatives for the first time might be coaxed into buying the myth that people will willingly upend their world without feeling any fear or doubt. Battle-scarred leaders familiar with the harsh realities of critical transformations, however, know that resistance is always going to be their companion on the change journey…at some time and to some degree. They look for seasoned change professionals who know what to do about it, not naïve players who cling to idealist notions of significant change without struggle.


I’m glad to say that the majority of change practitioners I know have a healthy respect for resistance and see it as an advantage to the implementation process, not an annoyance to be deflected. The point of this post is to say that there are those with a different view. I encourage readers to give some thought to this issue, because we must each decide which perspective is right for us. As a profession, we can live with differences of convictions, but it is vital that each of us formulate our views on matters of such importance to our craft.

I believe resistance is inevitable, important to manage carefully, and that we as practitioners have a responsibility to address it with skill and mindfulness. It’s with these biases that I offer the following blog entries:

  • In post 2, I’ll focus on the influence that predictability and control have in shaping resistance.
  • In posts 3, 4, and 5, I’ll review three models I use when assessing how resistance is impacting implementation as well as when I’m educating clients about its various manifestations.
  • Also in post 5, I’ll give you the link to a tool that fosters sponsor/target discussion about current resistance to a specific change.

I hope that, in response to these posts, you will consider sharing some of your perspectives on the topic. What have you learned about resistance that others could benefit from?

The Productivity Paradox: How Sony Pictures Gets More Out of People by Demanding Less

Read the spotlight article.

Companies are experiencing a crisis in employee engagement. One of the problems is all the pressure companies are putting on employees to produce. Workers are trying to get more done in less time-and are burning out. But while time is finite, energy is not; people can increase their reserves of personal energy. The key is to establish rituals-such as shutting down your e-mail for a couple of hours a day so you can focus on priorities, or taking a daily 3 p.m. walk to get a breather-that renew your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. These behavioral changes are sustainable, though, only if leaders at the most senior levels of an organization are willing to set a context for them, both by creating their own rituals and by setting a tone where people feel safe taking time out of the day on a regular basis. This is just what the leaders of Sony Pictures Entertainment did. Working with Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project, they implemented energy management training that has reached nearly half the company so far. To date, the reaction to the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Eighty-eight percent of participants say it has made them more focused and productive. More than 90% say it has helped them bring more energy to work every day. Eighty-four percent say they feel better able to manage their jobs’ demands and are more engaged at work. Sony’s leaders believe that these changes have helped boost the company’s performance. Despite the recession, Sony Pictures had its most profitable year ever in 2008 and one of its highest revenue years in 2009.

The new normal means constant change. Companies must reinvent themselves if they want to survive. This HBR Spotlight section looks at organizational change through two very different lenses-the first examining the connection between restructuring and improved performance, the second making the case for reorganization as a means of keeping a company’s structure in tune with the human dynamics that drive creativity and innovation. A third article suggests new ways to keep overworked employees engaged and productive in an economy struggling to recover from global recession.