Agile The Catalyst for Innovation, Scrum the framework for change

First Published By Modern Government Magazine

Let’s Use All The Tools Available To Make Change Happen For All Of US

 Today we are blessed to live in a nation whose roots were planted by a people that had the courage and aptitude for change. This great quote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

 This quote sets the bar rather high and is the catalyst of what is known as the ‘American Dream.’ Today, many Americans would say that they do not live this happiness, some would say it is because they do not feel free.  Liberty is not something that is evident within their environment.

 Here lays the question how can agile principles and values drive innovation that can empower every Americans’ pursuit of happiness.


The Agile Principles

 Let’s look at the twelve agile principles


1.        Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer
through early and continuous delivery
of valuable software.(services, representation)


2.        Welcome changing requirements, even late in
development. Agile processes harness change for
the customer’s competitive advantage.


3.        Deliver working software (services and government) frequently, from a
couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a
preference to the shorter timescale.


4.        Business people (citizens and residents) and developers (senators, mayor,   must work together daily throughout the project.


5.        Build projects (communities, job programs), around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.


6.        The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
is face-to-face conversation.


7.        Working software is the primary measure of progress.


8.        Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.


9.        Continuous attention to technical (details) excellence
and good design enhances agility.


10.     Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount
of work not done–is essential.


11.     The best architectures, requirements, and designs
emerge from self-organizing teams.(Communities, citizens, townships)


12.     At regular intervals, the team (local town hall, government elected officials) reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.


You will note that I have underlined certain words within certain principles. The words within the brackets after the underline are suggestions for the replacement.


We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it?

Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan


That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Bold words wouldn’t you agree? Let’s look at what we will call agile principle number 6. Well if The most efficient and effective methods of conveying information to and within a team is face to face conversation. When the last time face to face interaction was was part of your company culture? When we have the option to send an email or walk around the corner and see the person, what do we tend to do? Send an email. Technology advances seems to have killed the art and need for in person relational interactions. Now we don’t even pick the phone up to make a call, we simply shoot a text. Be careful not to misplace the message. The 1st agile values states it best, Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.  It is important to note that the people we call the founding fathers of the agile manifesto were a cross section of brilliant technologist and business thought leaders from multidisciplines. However, they realized from year of running projects and being part of projects within corporate and governmental organizations that if we lost site of the people, the customer, the user, and the citizen; we will have missed the ‘plot’ Technology tooling, and processes should be there to empower the individual’s interaction.


Why Are Individuals Interactions Important?


At the very core we are simply human beings as a result we all have basic needs and desires. One of those core needs is interaction with other individuals. The need to feel connected, the need to belong, the need for recognition and acceptance. Each of these needs drive human behavior. The pursuit of happiness requires these needs be met.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows the levels at which we need the interactions with another individuals


1st Physiological Needs (air, food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep)

2nd Tier – Safety & Security Needs (Health, employment, property, family, stability)

3rd Tier -Love & Belongingness Needs (friendship, family, intimacy, connections)

4th Tier- Self- Esteem Need (Confidence, achievements, respect of others, connections, need for individuality)

5th Tier – Self Actualization (Morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance. Experience purpose, meaning and inner potential)


What Environment Framework Fosters Individual Interactions

 The Scrum framework and scrum values provide actualization to tier 3, 4, and 5. Let’s talk scrum. Scrum is simple framework that facilities complex problems, projects, processes being built out and delivered.  It came about through Jeff Sutherland  and Ken Schwaber released a framework called, “Scrum.” This framework is known as an empirical process. In short, this framework allowed you to take large complex unknowns, break them down into simple statements clarified by success criteria known as the acceptance criteria. And these simplified statements, known as user stories would be placed into a time boxed environment in which a cross-functional team of individuals would collaborate their skills in order to make each simple statement a viable, usable product that delivers value to its customer. A key principle would take place through a mechanism known as a retrospective. The team would introspect along the five core scrum values: Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage. All held on three Scrum Pillars: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.


Agile Siblings that look like Twins

 Agile and Scrum although two individual separate entities, Agile speaking to a philosophy and belief system of working. Scrum speaking to process that fulfills that philosophy while delivering product or service increments. Interact in such a collaborative fashion in perfect support of each other, the industry at large tends to declare as agile scrum or scrum agile. Thus suggesting by implication that to be agile you need to scrum. That is an interesting debate to be had at another time.

Commitment speaks to Tier 2 stability

Respect speaks to Tier 4 Respect of Others

Courage speaks to Tier 4 Confidence- Self Esteem

Focus speaks to Tier 5 Purpose – Self Actualization

Openness speaks to Tier 3 – connections

Customer Collaboration Speaks to Tier 3 Friendship Tier 5 Creativity -Self Actualization

Responding to change speaks to Tier 5 Spontaneity,

Working software speaks to Tier 5 Experience purpose


Build projects (communities, job programs), around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done- Speaks to Tier 3


How Can This Knowledge Empower life liberty & pursuit of happiness

 Taking what is known as the very simple framework of Scrum, it is possible to facilitate consistent value in small increments of change. Changing the way inner city children are educated, changing the way inner city schools are funded. Allowing large organizations tax breaks for financing inner city school and equipping them to learn today what they will need tomorrow. Corporate workers time volunteered to teach courses in these schools that don’t attract the best teachers.

 Why not begin an open space backlog for improving inner city schools. If cities were allowed to be self-organizing and make alliances with businesses to increase their budgets. Today, as Americans, we are faced with many complex unknowns. We need to be courageous enough to admit we do not know what we do not know and implement an iterative approach to break down complex issues utilizing the methods the scum framework prescribes.

 Our department of Defense mandated a new acquisition process for information technology systems, leading to Agile becoming law. The very domestic threat that lays within our borders, it is our fear to step out and innovate, our fear to adapt. Our failure in retrospect to adapt and roadmap our technology future and education path has Japan, China, Sweden, as epic centers of technology innovation .In times past these countries and others like them, were seen as nothing more, but third world types. Today they have become leaders due to their willingness to embrace innovation, the courage to be able to step out and get it wrong. XP (Extreme Programming) prescribes to fail early, fail fast, fail often, and fail better.  Why is it so important to be willing to fail?

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” James Anthony Froude says it best, “Mistakes themselves are the best teachers of all,” because as Aristotle said, “He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.” This is our root impediment fear. Our American forefathers were not fearful they fought to maintain their freedom from the Great Britain. It is time to fight with knowledge, and inspire innovation!!


Where Do We Begin

 Most people spend According to US dept. of Labor people in the US spend at least 1896 hours per year at work on average. If were to take a closure look at corporate America we could probably double that number. That would raise the issue that people need to be happy at work.


Let’s talk Work

 What can be done in your environment to make things better for your teams? Do you care to improve their environment? Is the traditional model of management fostering innovation in your employees? Is is easy to think that innovation only belongs in technology, but if you encourage innovation in accounting in your hotels it means you give your teams the space to self-organize create better ways of doing what they do on an everyday basis.  Scrum prescribes inspection of what we do so that we can adapt it and continually improve. If we are not encouraging improvement and growth then we are by default encouraging stagnancy. Managers should be coaching mentoring servant leaders thinking about how they can build team and inspire growth. The leaders of the millennium, led by inspiration and example, not by tasking and micromanagement. Gardner report has said waterfall is dead it is the day of agility why? Because it creates an environment and ethos of empowerment trust and freedom to be creative which births solutions to complex problem. 


John Fisher’s transition curve states that we all go through a transition of happiness. The impact of the awareness that one’s viewpoint is acknowledged and shared by others provides a feeling of relief. A feeling that something is going to change and not continue as before. A feeling of anticipation and potentially excitement about the possibility of improvement. Regardless of the familiarity of the old system, there also lies truths that no matter how well we like and are comfortable with the status quo, there is something unsatisfactory about it.


The anticipation makes the happiness phase one of the more interesting because we transition through the phases without knowing. The feeling of knowing we have an impact to take control of our destiny helps move through the process. Hence the drive of an individual to pursue higher education solely from the extra income an education brings to satisfy a lifestyle of freedom. Under the belief that freedom buys happiness because freedom in decision making means living a happier lifestyle.


Dare to Innovate You be the change agent

Agile principle #4 talks to business people and developers must work together daily throughout a project because it incites innovative concepts from the power of collaboration.  Don’t underestimate the power of synergy that comes from collaborative efforts. Bringing these techniques to our local government to empower government from the people by the people can be more than historical statement from an epic speech. It can be a reality! Communities must demand governmental support to build projects around the people within communities the real people, to develop an environment conducive for enriching and cultivating innovation. Methods of innovation could be the introduction of serious games to produce serious results.

 The founder of innovation games Luke Hohmann spent the last ten years aiming to shift the mindset of traditional thinking and techniques around data harvesting or people’s opinions, desires, and priorities. When these methods were first introduced, it went against the graining of traditional customer market research techniques. Rather than interpret and assume the end customer’s desire, Luke had the concept of why not just ask the customers in a collaborative face to face fashion. This led to innovation gains like creating the product box, buying a feature.

 Today, the San Jose local government utilize buy-a-feature gain model to engage their constituents in matter of government budgeting and priorities. A great mind that is well respected today once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” (Socrates)

They have the courage to formally engage the people to become a part of their own governance model; a wonderful innovative prototype that sets the dial on a government, “For the people, by the people.” (Lincoln) Bringing in two hundred citizens from varying demographics in San Jose’s Town hall, and giving them copies of the budget and a limited amount of money to spend and furthermore, dividing that amongst the table of fellow citizens needing to come to consensus about serious issues that would affect their city for the next fiscal year. An example of these issues: increasing the police force, closing public libraries, repaving roads, opening vs. closing – closing vs. opening afterschool clubs. These are just an example of some of the serious issues this innovative technique was able to facilitate, the process of decision making and prioritizing.  Corporate organizations like SAP, FIAT, CISCO, ADOBE, and EMERSON are few organization who use these serious games to drive productivity and customer collaboration.

 American Governments customers are the American people. It is time to actively listen and deliver continuous improvement.

 Let’s Summarize

It is time to take Agile and Scrum beyond software into the communities, take it to the people. The spirit of the constitution offered justice, equality and the hope that the pursuit of happiness was viable for everyone. The Principles and values of agile coupled with the scrum framework provides the guidance and agility momentum to take citizens from theory to execution.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.