Agile - The Whole Story

You perfectly adopted Scrum - but some people are still complaining, that this was not the big deal? Had a huge agile adoption, top management involved, lots of new structures - but defect rates in your systems are not where you expected them to be?

Maybe the reason for your observation is, that you did omit one or more levels of the Agile pyramid of needs.

The "Agile Pyramid of Needs"

Agile essentially is a mindset. A culture. Many processes and tools (left side in the picture) are derived from the core values of this culture and they work seamlessly in Agile cultures. This is because on every level, people think in Agile ways and tailor their respective field of work to fit an Agile approach.

Nevertheless, companies that do not inherently have an Agile culture might want to get there, too, because it does have great advantages. The first step on this journey is often to adopt one or more of the Agile tools and processes mentioned above. But none of those processes or tools addresses all levels of the pyramid. This leads to some improvements and eventually small cultural changes on several places, but the success of truly Agile companies is not achieved.

Have a look at the pyramid above and see, if your Agile efforts hit all levels of the pyramid. If they do not, many of the problems you encounter now might stem from different cultures emerging (or staying) at different parts of your processes and company.

Maybe the pyramid model helps you to identify areas, where you missed to think about the impact of Agile. Identifying those areas will not immediately help you to change the culture of your company to an Agile one. Culture cannot be bought and is really hard to change. But processes and tools do have influence on culture. So finding the tools that address the blind spots in your Agile adoption might be a good next small step towards becoming a better company.


Levels of the "Agile Pyramid of Needs":

  1. Basic Needs - solid craftsmanship is in place, everybody knows his business basics: Test Driven Development (TDD), Continuous Integration, Software Craftsmenship, ...
  2. Safety - you can build and release securely and with high quality: test automation, experience, automated security tests, continuous integration & deployment, ...
  3. Belonging - teams are in place and doing a great job jointly: Scrum, eXtreme Programming, team building, retrospectives, Scrum Master, Agile Coach, ...
  4. Self-Esteem - you know your business value, speak about and optimize it: Kanban, Scrum, Beta-Codex Network, Radical Management, ...
  5. Self-Actualization - you do organizational experiments: Stoos, Management Innovations, ...

What Agile tools and processes do you know? On which level of the pyramid would you see them? Feel free to leave your comments!

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