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Mar 16

Holistic Agile

I’m a big fan of Douglas Adams. As a child I was listening to the Hitchhikers Guide tot the Galaxy radio play on my small radio at night and later I read all the books. The idea that if you think live is strange, in fact in real live it is much stranger is very compelling to me. It has formed my way of thinking and dealing with things. Now Douglas also wrote another book and this book made me start thinking lately. The book Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective agency is not so well known amongst the general public and that is sad because it is fun. Dirk is a detective who works holistic. In his opinion everything is connected. Nothing stands on it’s own and if you want to solve a crime, the way to solve it is by simply looking at everything as a whole.

Now this made me think. In adapting your company to Agile, most starters just look the projects by optimizing teams and do sprints and stuff. This works but at big companies this process tend to be slow. A company that claims to be Agile or wants to, needs to realize that this means that everything and everybody must be working and thinking according to this idea. So in basis, be holistic. Nothing can stay outside the process and is part of the whole. If you have a running agile process and people try to work around it, you could say that they move outside of the holistic circle. They are not connected. And the agile specialists amongst us know that this can interrupt or even jeopardize the work and in the end maybe agile itself. So it is crucial for success that everybody and everything is connected in the process of adapting to Agile (scrum, kanban etc).

How often does it happen that you are happily moving along? Your team is doing scrum and all of a sudden there is a interruption. Something needs to be done with the upmost urgency. And the manager or boss or whoever is pressing for results wants it now. You usually get the excuse that they do not work with scrum or whatever it’s called and they are not willing to adjust. This simply does not work and takes a lot of effort and persuasion to turn around.

So I thought of a new thing. Holistic Agile. Sounds cool and it states that in working with, for example, scrum, everything and each person is connected and will need to work as a whole. The office manager, who has nothing to do with a scrum, needs to know how people work and communicate. This goes from the CEO al the way to the cleaning lady. Everyone is connected. We all know what the butterfly effect is. A small thing that starts on a post-it at the desk of a manager can have huge effect on the person programming software. Now the programmer can be agile and using scrum to full effect. But when the manager is not, the connection can be difficult. You can say that by being Agile, if that is possible, this would not happen. But there is always something that can change things or even do damage. So think holistic and try to have an overview to make sure that nothing stays outside the Agile adaption. No matter what process, working model, planning, talks, people, office space, stationary, coffee brand, chairs or air-conditioning system. They are al connected to build the bigger picture. If the team drinks bad coffee they get grumpy and deliver crappy code. So the office manager should keep this in mind. Far fetched? Maybe but it does make you think doesn’t it. Now I’m not starting a revolution here. It is another way of looking at things. Just let this settle in slowly.

To turn you entire company around, approach it from the Holistic Agile idea. It’s bigger then you think

Holism (from ὂλος holos, a Greek word meaning allwholeentiretotal) , is the idea that natural systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) and their properties, should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts. This often includes the view that systems somehow function as wholes and that their functioning cannot be fully understood solely in terms of their component parts.

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  • I like you holistic view on introducing agile ideas into organisations. You need to build up trust between agile teams and managers, which takes time and effort. But in many cases it’s worth the effort!