Is Agile Costing You Too Much?
David Anderson
152

Hmmm, the story about a company went out and hired 400 product owners because a consultant said scrum teams should have a single product owner sounds bit of a stretch. I mean does any company make such a massive expense at the say so one one consultant. Hiring talented people takes time, not to mention an impressive budget that in any organization is going to be contentious as its a limited resource. If they did make the decision to hire 400 as if on a whim then surely it’s a leadership problem in the company as they may be looking for a “silver bullet”. Scrum is no silver bullet and nor is Kanban!

You do make out that Agile and scrum specifically has no basis because of such roles as PO. My experience with development environments is that they typically have someone fulfilling some of the responsibilities of a Product Owner. The PO role isn’t a business title either.

When it comes to software development (this is true in most non-software development) environments teams are less than disciplined with signaling and managing inventory of work. This is not just true about work but also in other areas. For best part with an invisible inventory, most people operate on the basis of “out of sight out of mind” and what inventory?

Whether it’s Scrum or Kanban, I find people signal based on what they are most used to. So I use the “how we drive on roads/freeways” as an analogy for operating a scrum or kanban board, and depending where you go in the world this board is operated very differently. From orderly driving in places like U.K (well that’s how I recall, now that I live in California) to chaotic in places like India. As you know in India this to many of us who are used to an orderly system appears chaotic, where drivers/riders are constantly locally optimizing without care for the overall outcome. You just have to experience places like Mumbai and Banglore, then even Delhi is a breath of fresh air (but for the air) Why I mention this is that when it comes to work people tend to behave this way,when it comes to signaling, be it a scrum or kanban board. The latter demands a high refresh on any signals and the team operating on the signal for global outcomes vs. outcomes for the individual role “i have done my bit”. The thing I do agree with you is that when adopting any lean practice, counter to the practice your organization has today, does require coaching. As in coached learning, inspecting and adapting as well as adopting. The reason is that this involves having people make a mind set shift, possibly unlearning bad habits. Scrum is open about this from the start and those adopting kanban appear less so. The reason may have something to do with how it’s framed. As in start where you are and the result is its seen as a process that “we will just overlay on what we do”. This means we can continue doing what they were doing without standing back to examine how we are organized and this also means we aren’t having to change our behavior — painless change if there ever was one!

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