Learning? Or Just Delivering?

How will you know when Agile is working?

Agile is about shorter feedback loops.

Imagine that your team keeps a diary. In that diary, the team records what it has learned in the past week. For example, this week we:

  • learned/discovered that _________
  • observed that ________
  • confirmed that _________

Note how this feels different from progress without a “check”. Progress feels good. But progress feels even better when you put it to the test and learn something. It’s like writing these posts. Pressing “publish” feels decent, but comments and feedback really help me learn and improve.

With software product development the “check” might entail a usability test, integration, getting something into production, brainstorming ideas with your team, looking at usage data, doing research with customers, or demoing a new feature internally. There’s feedback, and the feedback has high information content. It’s like assembling a piece of IKEA furniture and putting your full weigh on it for the first time without it breaking.

Some teams are dogmatic about what constitutes learning. Perhaps they believe shipping is the only form of “true” learning. I disagree. A team can ship nothing, and still learn rapidly (e.g. when they’re doing research together).

Is your team learning? Or just delivering?