Image credit: Andrea Lightfoot
Of the working environments that I have had exposure to in this industry (either by employment, visit, or as an interviewee) all have claimed to use agile practices.
Several reported using a combination of Lean, Agile and Design Thinking methodologies, unique in one way or another. In the companies that I have worked for specifically, Agile and Lean methodologies have always been used in a piecemeal fashion. Until this week, I wasn’t sure which processes fell into which umbrella methodology.
I use the term ‘umbrella’ to parrot Belinda Waldock, ca. 2020, who has helped me understand that the act of picking and choosing agile practices to implement or ignore is agile in itself. To that extent, I suppose that I would consider myself an agile practitioner.
Jeff Gothelf, 2017, raises an interesting point in his Lean Vs Agile Vs Design Thinking book: if the various departments within a business each follow a different model, the business can become fractured. However, they can be reconciled with good core practices: short, reflective work cycles and regular communication, both internally and with end users.
And therein is my biggest take-away from this week’s content. The four core values of the agile manifesto are what drive better software, and really they’re compatible with the other big methodologies.
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.
The lean-agile mindset certainly has its own following, further demonstrating how harmonic different methodologies can be:
The goal – value
Pillar 1 – Respect for People and Culture
Pillar 2 – Flow
Pillar 3 – Innovation
Pillar 4 – Relentless Improvement
Every team and project is unique, so the exact processes should be bespoke to the requirements at hand. I have worked in environments where a day in every sprint was dedicated to planning, estimations and retrospectives. I’ve also worked in environments where the retrospectives were exclusively held on Friday evening at the local pub.
My point is, subscribing to the first core value of the agile manifesto, I’m inclined to be less interested in specific agile rituals. An agile mindset and a dedication to technical and operational excellence seem to be the real drivers for better software.
Whilst checking out what a few other agile practitioners had to say about various methodologies, I stumbled across two new terms that I haven’t yet encountered professionally. Ellen Merryweather, 2020, introduced me to the phrases ‘minimum lovable product’ and ‘minimum marketable product’.
Predictably, MLP and MMP are variations of MVP, popularised by Eric Ries, 2011. These pique my interest because they convey the same message that I used to present in a lot of client workshops. The message is as such:
Typically, an MVP isn’t the first product of its kind to enter the market. Unless your software concept is exceptionally niche, you’ll probably need to pull users from another solution and retain them. Paraphrasing Nir Eyal in Hooked, it’s often not enough to deliver a better solution; you need to deliver a product with the substance to change user habits. If an MVP focuses too heavily on the minimum, it won’t capture early adopters, and it’s not viable.
I realise now that MVP isn’t really a fit for that message. Whether a product could poach users from an existing solution is more a question of marketability. Whether a product delights users enough to retain them is a question of lovability.
I hope that, one day, I get another opportunity to deliver workshops. If I do, I’m pretty sure I’ll be throwing these phrases in. I also hope that, in the next module, I get the opportunity to produce an MVP of some sort. I’d like to see whether that MVP could pass as lovable or marketable.
BECK, K., et al. 2001. The Agile Manifesto. Agile Alliance. Available at: http://agilemanifesto.org [accessed 22/12/2020].
EYAL, N. 2014. ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products’. New York: Penguin Portfolio.
GOTHELF, J. 2016. ‘Agile vs Lean vs Design Thinking’. Available at: https://medium.com/@jboogie/agile-vs-lean-vs-design-thinking-2329df8ab53c [accessed 22/12/2020].
GOTHELF, J. 2017. Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking: What You Really Need to Know to Build High-Performing Digital Product Teams. Massachusetts: Sense and Respond press.
MERRYWEATHER, E. 2020. ‘What Is a Minimum Lovable Product?’. Product School. Available at: https://productschool.com/blog/product-management-2/minimum-lovable-product/ [accessed 22/12/2020].
RIES, E. 2011.The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. New York: Crown Business.
Scaled Agile. 2020. Lean-Agile Mindset. Available at: https://www.scaledagileframework.com/lean-agile-mindset/ [accessed 22/12/2020].
WALDOCK, B. 2015. Being agile in business: discover faster, smarter, leaner, ways to work. Harlow: Pearson.
WALDOCK, B. ca. 2020. ‘Week 10: Belinda Waldock on the Agile Movement and Practice’. [GD710 module content]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/872/pages/week-10-belinda-waldock-on-the-agile-movement-and-practice [accessed 22/12/2020].