Agile Beyond Software
Agile is gaining traction outside of the traditional IT work that it is associated with. Change is happening faster in technology and business, and the empirical approach is becoming more and more accepted as a productive way to manage change and respond to it.
One place where this is evident is in the venture capital business. OpenView Partners, a venture firm based in Boston, is running the business using a tailored version of Scrum. The firm has Jeff Sutherland on staff serving as a Senior Adviser. In addition to running the company and making execution decisions using Scrum, OpenView goes one step further. When they make an investment, the funded company must use a tailored Scrum implementation to organize work.
In the original article "The New New Product Development Game", authors Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka described how a company that works empirically has more autonomy, not less. The article, published in 1986, says that
On a day to day basis...the team is free to set its own direction. In a way, top management acts as a venture capitalist.
Interest in the use of Agile in non-IT domains is rising. In 2009, the Agile conference hosted several session on Agile in non-IT domains. A session called 'Scrum in Church" described how an interim Unitarian minister used Scrum to organize churches and volunteers. Another session on "Agile Practices at Home: Iterating with Children" described how Scrum can be used to teach children essential skills in focus and commitment as they organize their school work and extra-curricular activities. Indeed, the Scrum in Schools initiative seeks to bring Agile techniques to schools and teachers, worldwide, presumably to bring Agile ideas to the awareness of school-age kids.
Rapid change in business, brought about by strong forces like globalization are mandating-- or at least tolerating-- an empirical approach.
Can governments benefit from waiting till the "last responsible moment" ?
Can bureaucracies ever learn to "fail fast" ? Perhaps.
One telling signal that Agile in non-IT is gaining real traction is the recent behavior of the Scrum Alliance. The slogan of the Scrum Alliance for some time has been "transforming the world of work". Now the organization is running a new event called "OpenSpace: Scrum Beyond Software Development" on September 25-26 in Phoenix Arizona. The purpose and intent? According to the promotional web page, it is:
..this 2-day event....will be an interactive, chaotic collaboration between passionate individuals seeking to transform the world of work.... and discover the true potential of Scrum alongside those brave souls who are daring to venture out of the traditional patterns of work... you will get to create new ideas and plans of action together with like-minded colleagues. Attendees will be able to ... successfully implement Scrum in many different contexts.
Scrum, if not all of Agile, appears to be taking more and more territory previously reserved for plan-driven ways of working. Apparently, there is more than sufficient interest in the use of Scrum in non-IT domains to mandate an entire 2-day event focused on this idea. Those at the cutting edge of Agile practice and Agile coaching are pushing Scrum out beyond software development. What happens next might be surprising.