Fixing the Agile Silos

silos

Today I had the chance (aka enough free time) to see the “Lean Startup Meets Design Thinking” video from the Google for Entrepreneur channel.

One of the most important concept of the video, with Eric Ries and Tim Brown, is IMHO the Ries’s digression about the modern (agile)companies.

so if you look at you like if you pick a random well-run company today and you imagine zoom way out and imagine each of the functional silos as if they were like big huge physical grain silos […] and you grab one on the silos […] you grab the top that popped up like a Pringles can look inside the engineering silo what do you see you will see it highly iterative agile development, extreme programming style native approach, grab the design silo […] you will see the how works design thinking, grab marketing you will see customer development, if you grab operations you’ll see some devops.

You might find an organization where every silo things are highly iterative customer-centric where people are really put focus on learning, but then zoom out you say well this must be a really adaptable learning oriented company this is fantastic but, actually what you will see in a lot of companies is although there’s all this iteration learning happening each individual silo the actual work product the company produces is passed binder to binder from each silo to the next in a totally linear and old-school waterfall style approach.

And if you look CEO of such a company not a day goes by where somebody who works in one of the houses are coming to your office and say you know about the company a lot better you should make my function in charge of all the other functions and we get all the other functions to design thinking or customer development or agile (pick your choice) that would make life easier, and off course everybody in every silo is saying that and for our modern managers it can be really challenging […]

(I got the transcript directly from youtube)

I think the agile-silos problem is one of the biggest pain for all those methodology zealots (freelancer, teams and companies) which believe only in their (ultra)specialised activity (designers, developers, ops, whatever-2.0) without thinking about the complexity of the system where they are working for and how they need to create a better company-ecosystem.

The problem is wider than you think since, as far I can see, the trend is that all the communities (all of them running at least a conference) are working agains each other to get the throne of the leadership instead to find a way to collaborate in an effective way. All of them are trying to bring the sacred fire of truth™ without thinking for a moment that, maybe, sometimes a step back is needed to allow the team to put in charge the best resource needed to take the right choice. And this problem is even more noticeable when the product team includes several (specialised) companies.

During the next BetterSoftware I hope to see (and I’ll spend my votes to approve) talks and case studies about fixing the agile-silos to start a discussion on a neutral field like BSW is.

PS
another thing Ries said was:

So for me (Eric Ries) my aspiration would lean startup is not just to have people adopt as get another siloed approach but rather to take these common elements that are common to design thinking in and Agile and Lean answer to apply the at a system-wide at the company level so that we have a common framework for understanding what are the problems are common approach for other process that we’re going to use to solve those problems and most importantly […]

In this case the solution is IMHO more clear. Event/Model Storming approach is the best one to create a common playground, it (only) needs to gather together the domain experts and to make sure they share the information each other. Without any guessing about the right design, or the right IT infrastructure or the real procedure to get the needed data because all of them knows their domain area.

 

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