Sunday, March 5, 2017

Are you closing the Distance in your Agile Journey?

An interesting phenomenon has arisen in Agile environments that could become litmus tests to determine if you are Agile.   This phenomenon is the concept of “closing the distance”.   There are three areas that closing the distance is both Agile and good for companies.  The three areas include the distances amongst employees, the distance between employees and customers, and the distance when an idea comes in until it hits the marketplace. Let’s explore each in more detail. 
Closing the Distance amongst Employees – Agile focuses a lot on individuals and interacts as one of its values.  The intent is that employees should be on teams with a common purpose bringing people closer.  Agile advocates the concept of swarming where employees collaboratively work together to get work done.  If you are a manager, Agile asks you to get closer to your employees by removing their impediments and also aligns with the practice of walking the “gemba” (walking the halls and asking if you can help employees by removing impediments and more).

Closing the Distance between Employees and Customers – In many non-Agile organizations, there are often a number of degrees of separation between employees and customers.  Agile asks that employees come face-to-face with customers in the demos to gain the precious customer feedback.  I recommend the “two degrees of customer separation” rule where no employee (including management) should be more than two degrees of separation from the customer (e.g., you to employee to customer or you directly to customer). 

Closing the distance between recording an idea until it hits the Marketplace – In this case distance is the lead-time (clock time between the moment the idea is recorded to when it gets released).  If you are doing Agile well, you will ensure the new idea (e.g., new requirement), assuming it is of high enough value, gets looked at immediately, and not wait until the next budget cycle.  Additionally, Agile expects that you will proactively attempt to shorten the distance from idea to release by reducing wait states and removing impediments.  

In summary, have you noticed that during your Agile journey that you have seen the distances get shorter? Are you getting closer to your colleagues and employees?  Are you getting closer to customers?  And is the lead-time distance being shortened from the moment the idea is recorded to when it gets to market?  If not, then maybe you’re not as Agile as you thought.  If you have, then you are headed in the right direction.  Could awareness of these three distances provide you a litmus test on whether you are moving in the direction of agility?

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