Strongly Recommended Agile Learning Resources

One of the things that I think holds Scrum teams back from being successful is that they often learn about the Scrum process but don’t learn about Agile culture or infrastructure. Because Scrum is a system that relies on all of it’s parts, failure to master Agile culture and infrastructure means that companies will also fail to master Scrum. This failure is unbelievably costly for companies and teams: “average” teams deliver only a 35% improvement over Waterfall, while properly coached teams deliver 300-400% improvements. I’ve seen this myself in my time working with Scrum teams at Atomic Online: once a team got properly coached and running, we were at least 3-4x as fast as when we started. This is rare, too: I have not yet worked with a team that has outperformed the teams I worked with at Atomic Online.

I think we owe it to ourselves as members of Scrum team to learn about and embrace Agile principles. This is hard to do without a “sensei” (a well-experienced Agile leader) who can can conduct gemba walks with incumbent leadership to bring about organizational transformation. In lieu of that, though, here are some resources that I hope can help to at least illustrate the difference between a true Agile/Scrum/Kanban environment and a waterfall environment that has adopted a few Scrum processes.

  • Shock Therapy: A 2009 article from Jeff Sutherland, Ph.D. (co-founder of Scrum), Scott Downey, and Björn Granvik. Nicely illustrates the difference between “hyper-performance” Scrum teams and the waterfall status quo. Also prescribes—as would I—that anyone attempting to implement Scrum do so by adopting it 100% from the start.
  • This American Life’s story on NUMMI: An entertaining yet heart-breaking story on the profound transformation GM’s Fremont automotive manufacturing plant went through when they reopened in 1984 as a joint venture with Toyota.
    • Sadly, GM never learned Toyota’s profound lessons: “Though it did learn and apply much from the Toyota production system, it was unable to replicate the system in any existing plant. Workers and managers at existing GM plants have such a long history of confrontational relations, and such a distrust of each other, that a system based on mutual trust and cooperation apparently could not be implemented.” — Edwin & Mitsuko Duerr: “EVALUATING A JOINT VENTURE: NUMMI AT AGE 20
    • The NUMMI plant closed on April 1, 2010 with the production of a final red Corolla. It reopened later in the year as the Tesla Factory.
  • The New New Product Development Game: Jeff Sutherland, a co-founder of Scrum along with Ken Schwaber, calls Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka the “Godfathers of Scrum.” The New New Product Development Game is Takeuchi and Nonaka’s seminal article on Scrum and its influence on Scrum is quite obvious. Also see:
  • The Tyranny of “The Plan” by Mary Poppendieck (transcript): A brilliant discussion of where plans came from and why they harm (rather than boost) productivity. Anyone who claims that their project is too “big” to be built using Agile may be surprised to learn that the Empire State Building—a skyscraper that reigned champion as the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years after its completion—was built using Agile principles on time and under budget.

Here’s a few more culture-specific resources:

  • The Business Value of Joy (slides): “At Menlo, we’re focused on the business value of joy,” Sheridan explains about the company named and modeled after Thomas Edison’s New Jersey lab. “Failed IT strategies have put companies out of business—it’s a huge issue to do software better. Here, we’re myopically focused on that as our goal. We’ve changed everything, because the industry is broken and we’re tired of it.” — Rich Sheridan, Founder and CEO of Menlo Innovations
  • How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything: Dov Seidman makes the point that the way in which we work together is much more important than exactly what we’re doing together. This is because working well together is crucial to enabling whatever what it is that you are seeking.
  • Netflix’s Company Culture deck: Netflix is well-known for having a highly-disciplined culture. This deck does an excellent job describing that culture and offers suggestions on how to avoid creating a death-march bureaucracy.
  • MindTime and Its All About Time: How Companies Innovate and Why Some Do It Better: Much of our ability to get along stems from our ability to understand one another. Believe it or not, the behavior of all sentient beings corresponds to three simple rules:
    1. Stay close to your neighbor, of like kin or tribe, and maintain a steady relationship, distance, and direction.
    2. Move towards opportunities for higher survival, sex, food, and shelter.
    3. At the first sign of a threat, move in the opposite direction. Use memory and experience to know where to go.

    These rules sound like a stretch, but as I’ve mediated upon it I’ve found them to be quite accurate. (I invite you to share any behaviors that you can think of that do not have roots in these rules in the comments section below…) These rules correspond to three thinking styles, all rooted in time: past, present, and future. Every human being has a blend of these thinking styles that they leverage as their very survival strategy. Thus, by understanding and having empathy for both our own thinking style and that of others, we can communicate better and enjoy better relationships and higher productivity at work.

In addition, here’s a whole treasure trove of resources from the Scrum Alliance.

I hope you find some or all of these resources useful to you. I’d also love to hear about any resources that you’ve found useful; please share them in the comments or send me a message at @chrisgagne!

2016-02-01T15:26:43+00:00 March 5th, 2014|0 Comments

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