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Agility – process improvement is part of what makes us human

So SCRUM / Kanban / Lean is the greatest project management methodology ‘invented’, and all these fantastic advances took place within the last few decades?

That’s just plain silly, the greatest single thing that makes process improvement possible is our innate ability as a species to do a little thing called reflection. Please don’t focus too much on the name, we have far too many labels for stuff already. But I’d argue that the moment our ancestors genetically mutated to become able to think about what they are doing [wrong] and how they can change it [to improve], is the moment we really became able to rapidly advance as a civilisation.

My point in relation to software development is that everyone already has some degree of agility in their approach to their work. How measured and thought out it is may be debatable, but who doesn’t want to make their own job easier in some way?

In light of the fact that many people may already be no stranger to process improvement, it’s probably wise when applying an approach like SCRUM to first consider how things are working and being improved currently. The trouble with methodological frameworks is that if they are too tightly applied with too many rules, you lose the spontaneity of your ability to respond to change, and if they are too loosely applied then the process is likely to be ‘broken’ such that it might as well not exist in the first place. Much can be learnt from looking at existing procedures in place, which may in fact be much more applicable to the nature of the work in question and consider factors that (to begin with at least) the new way might ignore.

Often it seems to me that: the tools used, methods of communication, decision making procedure and working practices make a much more substantial contribution to how well stuff works in a company, than the chosen way. I’m not denying the importance of project management and process improvement, just expanding on the ‘no silver bullet’ theory in relation to programming languages, to apply to all aspects of software development, and indeed to any other industry. Just as there is no simple way to get rich quick there is no simple way to deliver stuff on time and on budget. It takes hard work, application of the little grey cells and the humility to reflect when things inevitably go wrong.

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