If we don't learn from our customers -- especially what unique value they expect -- how can we compete successfully in the market?
In a recent conversation at a conference lunch, I asked my peers what one word they would use to describe Agile. There were a few suggestions such as "flexible," "disciplined," and "responsive." When someone pointed the question at me, my answer was, "Learning." By that I mean, "continuous learning."
Have we lost sight of this? Is an adherence to the practices of Agile getting in our way of learning? Is the Agile community learning and evolving?
Without a culture of learning, processes take over that allow us to wriggle out of responsibility -- a mindset encapsulated in the phrase: "I didn't fail. The Agile methods don't work." I have heard variations of this many times. However, if a specific process doesn't work, the Agile team must learn what needs to be changed to succeed and possess the collective ownership to make the change.
Let's go back to what we are really trying to do with Agile Development: delight our customers and provide business value. Mary Poppendieck, of lean-development fame, offers many keys to accomplishing this through the removal of waste. We learn what waste is in our internal processes and remove it. We learn that the sooner we look for defects, the cheaper they are to fix. Sometimes people say, "We get to done, done, done and then we do a system test." Have they learned the value of getting to done, done, done? In starting to use Agile methods, one leader's teams complained that they could not get to done, done, done in just two weeks. Her reply? "Then let's figure out how to do it in one week." And they learned how to do just that.
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