Some interesting opportunities; working towards Agile

“The solutions that we design for problems are obsolete by the time we are ready to deliver them.”

Agile is not new. Many software companies have adopted it over the last decade, picking up on the increased speed to market that such an approach can provide. Others have managed with more iterative change but are now beginning to realise they too will need to adapt mostly to keep up with pure-plays, but also potentially to realistically start paying down technical debt, or align with security requirements in today’s cyber world. Others have passed ‘beyond’ Agile and work in DevOps, or DevSecOps or NoOps or whatever else is the latest thing’ to drive change to market faster.

I have had a passing interest in Agile, on the boundaries of my Systems Thinking course for several years – primarily just because I work in Software Delivery. Beyond theory, and reading some great books like ‘The Goal’ and ‘The Phoenix Project’, I have not had the opportunity to do much with it. My background to date has been working with HR and ERP systems, which tend to have higher stability requirements than speed to market requirements, and so iterative change is probably the closest I have personally been. (This is not to say that Agile and its spin-off buddies do not happen within my organisation – they just seem to reside in alien pockets of it.

That is all about to change; both my future role and my entire department are going through a major overhaul to reverse that paradigm. Agile and Lean working is to become the focus and this means big changes afoot, both in for the business, and for the foot soldiers on the ground doing the work. Roles and responsibilities will change, continuous learning is strongly advocated (great for me!) the status quo will change  While this is stressful (not going to lie – I have a tolerance for ambiguity but too much ambiguity gives me itchy feet!) It also provides a unique chance to turn theory into opportunity, and so I have been using some of my free time (while I wait for my next Open University module) to investigate or revisit some studies in this area.

The following are a couple of choice bits I have picked out from the raft of things I have been reading, listening to, or watching – and I am hoping I can pump some new life back into this blog over the coming weeks by reviewing these and others as I find them, and as I continue on my own personal journey of self development.

TED and TEDx Talks

I watch TED talks a lot – I am always taken by how much information the speakers can impact in such a short amount of time. I particularly enjoy those talks where the speakers is able to make their point using story-telling or analogies as this tends to be one of my preferred ways of articulating complex process to my stakeholders, and I love to see how others do it.

I was particularly taken by this TEDx talk by Joe Simkins with regard to the complexity of emergent systems, specifically towards the [13.55]  point and his associated analogy to explain the concept of complex systems. I am not sure whether I would have used children as a concept in this analogy – it probably wouldn’t have been my personal choice –  but the point he makes is nonetheless interesting and it does work.)

Taking Joe’s point of ‘living in the moment.and this is where I would draw a parallel with the Agile and Lean movements within the Software Delivery.

The technologies that we work on today are often now so interconnected and complex, that – to borrow Joe’s analogy – they have turned into this ever morphing and unpredictable child figure. Taking a snapshot in time and planning change around that baseline is no longer an option – the system moves too fast and changes too quickly to make this viable.

Books

I am reading two books currently which relate strongly to this notion, and I hope to provide some reviews on this blog once I have completed them:

The first book is a collection of published blog posts by AWS (Amazon Web Services)  Enterprise Strategy lead Stephen Orban. The book Ahead in the Cloud: Best Practices for Navigating the Future of Enterprise IT provides a series of interesting and interrelated posts pertaining to the authors experiences implementing Cloud native technologies, and the challenges and misconceptions therein.

The second book I have just started and is another in my ever increasing library of Systems Thinking books. This book, produced by Springer, is titled The Journey to Enterprise Agility: Systems Thinking and Organizational Legacy, written by Daryl Kulak and Dr Hong Li, and examines the inherent messiness of software development process change, navigating the maze of different Agile approaches, and more importantly – the journey to get there.

Both of these books target a theme of looking into the journey towards Agile practice as opposed to the finished product. It has always been a bugbear of mine whenever I attend a conference, or read a book extolling the virtues of Agile working, it is always about the final product; of the successes and never the failures or the lessons learned.

OU Studies

My Open University studies are currently on hold; I had too much going on at work and at home to be in a position to add this additional pressure. I have already registered for my next course TU812: Managing systemic change: inquiry, action and interaction to begin in November this year. This si the sister course to TU811 which I completed last year and I am looking forward to it.

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