The other day I had a conversation with my long-time friend Simon Voice, as part of his new podcast series talking to people about their career and experiences along the way. It was fun to talk about old times and reflect on how some things have changed.
One of the things he asked about was a particular large agile project we’d both been involved with (over a decade ago now), and in particular whether it was successful because we didn’t use one of the now-well-known big agile frameworks. I don’t think he named any particular framework immediately, but he was obviously referring to what someone else, later in the week, called “the S-word”—and perhaps some others.
And I think he was right—it was successful because the approach we used was pretty straightforward and relatively free of beauracracy. There are probably several reasons for this.
For one thing, there was less to keep in our heads. There was plenty of jargon (and I documented some of that), but that jargon was far less than what you might see elsewhere these days. And so, for example, we spent almost no time debating the fine distinctions between one concept and another.
One consequence of this was that we put much more effort into worrying about the value of what we were doing rather than the mechanics of how were were doing it. In other words, the focus was on the delivery much more than the process. We had a very strong idea of what we needed to do.
Another feature of the project was that there was a very high degree of trust in each other. We appreciated someone’s input because of them as an individual and their expertise, much less because of their job title or the function they were supposed to perform. This can happen on any project or programme, of course, but when you naturally trust your colleagues there is much less of a need to fall back on formal processes and procedures.
That’s not to say there is no value in some of those big methodologies. But the answer to the question “Did it help that we had a relatively lightweight process?” is almost certainly “Yes”.