let the goal pull change through the organisation

What’s the Right Way™ to carry out an agile transformation? Indeed, is an agile transformation always the Right Thing to do?

On the one hand, an agile coach may be hired to “implement” Scrum or XP, because that’s the way the organisation has decided to go. Alternatively, one may be engaged to help improve an organisation’s productivity, say, without regard to whether the resulting system behaviours will be recognisable as this or that agile method.

In the domain of lean manufacturing, productivity improvement itself can – and indeed must – be seen as a pull activity:

“Taiichi Ohno remarked that TPS is very much like the scientific method of experimentation. When this is not kept in mind, the result is “push” style Lean (Do as you are told), rather than “pull” Lean implementation (What is the biggest problem?)”

This is a very clear answer. “Lean” is the name given after the fact to a very effective type of system that was “grown” piecemeal by kaizen – continuous gradual change. magnet (Ohno states elsewhere that all of the key aspects of the Toyota Production System arose individually as solutions to the root cause of some specific incident.) Lean was not the goal, it is simply a name for the resulting shape of the organisation.

Similarly in software development, we must not let the “agile” banner get in the way of our goal, which is the creation of an effective software department. The body of agile knowledge is invaluable as a source of ideas and experience when we are faced with effectiveness problems to solve. But it must not be used dogmatically. “Extreme at all costs” may well be better than we were before, but without the pull from the overall system’s Goal it is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term.

What interests me is effective software development; that is, software departments that contribute to the overall organisation’s Goal of present and future profitability. Such effectiveness must be achieved gradually, by repeatedly resolving the root cause of the biggest problem. The Goal will pull changes through the system, if we let it.

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