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Agility from
First Principles
Tathagat Varma
Strategy & Operations, Walmart Global Tech
Doctoral Scholar, Indian School of Business (ISB)
What is Agile?
• Seventeen leading software practitioner-cum-methodologists came
together in 2001 to author Manifesto for Agile Software Development.Practice-led
• Originally created in response to the “alternative to documentation
driven, heavyweight software development processes” that were not
effective in a fast-changing world.
Effectiveness
• Described by 4 core values (“what”) that emphasize on People, Value,
Collaboration and Adaptation.4 Core Values
• Supported by 12 principles (“how”) that provide functional guidance on
what does it mean to be agile.12 Principles
• Specific frameworks, methodologies, methods and practices are not
identified in the Agile Manifesto. These are typically part of specific
frameworks such as XP, Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, etc.
Generic
How it all started?
• The New New Product Development Game – Hirotaka
Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, HBR, Jan 1986
• They studied:
• FX-3500 medium-sized copier (introduced by Fuji-Xerox in
1978)
• PC-10 personal-use copier (Canon, 1982)
• City car with 1200 cc engine (Honda, 1981)
• PC 8000 personal computer (NEC, 1979)
• AE-1 single-lens reflex camera (Canon, 1976)
• Auto Boy, known as the Sure Shot in the United States, lens
shutter camera, (Canon, 1979)
https://hbr.org/1986/01/the-new-new-product-development-game
Key
learnings
Built-in
instability
Self-organizing
project teams
Overlapping
development
phases
“Multilearning”
Subtle control
Organizational
transfer of
learning
https://hbr.org/1986/01/the-new-new-product-development-game
Agile
agile
process
Agility
results
+
Purpose
(“Why”)
Transcend all aspects of a
business to deliver highest
customer value in the
most cost-effective
manner by eliminating
wastes and delays,
reducing inventories and
technical debt and
optimizing lead times and
cash cycle.
Human
Capital
(“What”)
Pursue a people-first
approach by nurturing growth
mindsets and giving them a
choice to work with like-
minded peers in small high-
performing teams, often co-
located, with cross-functional
skills, that can quickly self-
organize in line with dynamic
external environment, on
creatively solving meaningful
problems that provide
cognitive stimulation.
Way of
Working
(“How”)
Leveraging empirical
processes designed by the
people working on the
problem, that promote
complex problem solving
by conducting small safe-
to-fail experiments in quick
iterations and delivering
work in small increments to
collect frequent feedback in
order to continuously align
the performance.
Leadership
(supported
by “who”)
Elevate the leaders into
servant leaders who
facilitate harnessing the
full potential of its human
capital by creating and
growing an environment
of trust, mutual respect,
openness, transparency,
values and teamwork.
Culture
(supported
by “how”)
Till the fertile ground with
psychological safety where
human potential is fully
realized by promoting
continuous learning through
experimental and
experiential means, enabled
by collaboration across
boundaries, amplified by
learning feedbacks from
meaningful intelligent
mistakes and riskworthy
brilliant failures!
What really is agile?
A philosophy A mindset A culture
Mindset
by Carol
Dweck
https://blogs.unimelb.edu.au/sciencecommunication/2017/10/01/how-your-mindset-makes-you-successful/
T-shaped
Skills
Cross-functional team
https://www.thoughtworks.com/insights/blog/why-product-objectives-are-your-best-guide-team-design
Self-
organizing
teams
Leading Teams: Setting the stage for great performance - J. Richard Hackman
Leadership
https://hbr.org/1973/05/how-to-choose-a-leadership-pattern
Agile
Organizat
ion
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-five-trademarks-of-agile-organizations#
Psychological Safety
• Ability to innovate is key for
organizations and teams today.
• However, organizations often
ignore lower-level safeties and
directly expect innovation which
requires Challenger Safety.
• Key is to systematically build
inclusion, learner, contributor and
finally challenger safety in order
to bring about ability to innovate
the organizations and teams.
The Four Stages of Psychological Safety - Timothy Clark
Closed-
loop
problem-
solving
https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_89.htm
Double-
loop of
learning
http://www.reply-mc.com/2009/10/26/what-about-chris-argyris/
Thinking in MVPs
“A picture used
to be a sum of
additions. In
my case a
picture is a
sum of
destructions.” –
Picasso, 1935
https://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/animals_in_art/pablo_picasso.htm
The United States’ First Fighter Jet
• In June 1943, the U.S. Army’s Air Tactical Service Command
(ATSC) met with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to express its dire
need for a jet fighter to counter a rapidly growing German jet
threat.
• One month later, a young engineer named Clarence "Kelly" L.
Johnson and his hand-picked team of engineers and
mechanics delivered the XP-80 Shooting Star jet fighter
proposal to the ATSC. Shortly after, the go-ahead was given for
Lockheed to start developing the United States' first jet fighter.
This project marked the birth of what would become the Skunk
Works®, with founder Kelly Johnson at its helm.
• The formal contract for the XP-80 didn’t arrive at Lockheed until
Oct. 16, 1943, four months after work had already begun. This
would prove to be a common practice within the Skunk Works.
A customer would go to the Skunk Works with a request, and on
a handshake the project would begin – no contracts in place,
no official submittal process.
• Kelly Johnson and his team designed and built the XP-80 in only
143 days, seven less than was required.
• It was Kelly’s unconventional organizational approach that
allowed the Skunk Works to streamline work and operate with
unparalleled efficiency. He challenged the bureaucratic system
that stifled innovation and hindered progress. His philosophy is
spelled out in his 14 Rules and Practices.
https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/who-we-are/business-areas/aeronautics/skunkworks/skunk-works-origin-story.html
Kelly’s 14 Rules and Practices
1. The Skunk Works® manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or
higher.
2. Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the military and industry.
3. The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people (10% to
25% compared to the so-called normal systems).
4. A very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided.
5. There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly.
6. There must be a monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program.
7. The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontract on the project. Commercial
bid procedures are very often better than military ones.
8. The inspection system as currently used by the Skunk Works, which has been approved by both the Air Force and Navy, meets the intent of existing
military requirements and should be used on new projects. Push more basic inspection responsibility back to subcontractors and vendors. Don't duplicate
so much inspection.
9. The contractor must be delegated the authority to test his final product in flight. He can and must test it in the initial stages. If he doesn't, he rapidly loses
his competency to design other vehicles.
10. The specifications applying to the hardware must be agreed to well in advance of contracting. The Skunk Works practice of having a specification section
stating clearly which important military specification items will not knowingly be complied with and reasons therefore is highly recommended.
11. Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesn't have to keep running to the bank to support government projects.
12. There must be mutual trust between the military project organization and the contractor, the very close cooperation and liaison on a day-to-day basis. This
cuts down misunderstanding and correspondence to an absolute minimum.
13. Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled by appropriate security measures.
14. Because only a few people will be used in engineering and most other areas, ways must be provided to reward good performance by pay not based on the
number of personnel supervised.
https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/who-we-are/business-areas/aeronautics/skunkworks/kelly-14-rules.html
Agile for Cyber-
Physical Systems
(CPS)
• Agile, especially the agile
thinking is fairly generic.
• However, the Laws of
Physics must be
maintained for CPS.
• The approach would be
to follow the first
principles, suitably
adapted to CPS.
https://agileforhardware.org/about_mahd/
JAS 39E Saab Gripen
Agile Transformation
• Agile Transformation is
enterprise change
management in
holistically adapting to the
new way of working.
• Agile Adoption might only
require introducing some
agile practices without
getting to the core of agile
way of working.
Mindset
Culture
Frameworks
and
Methodologies
Methods and
Practices
Tools
Frequent
pitfalls
Agile Adoption
Lack of Vision
Lack of Business Alignment
Internal Resistance
Enable Agile
Transformation
Setting Realistic Expectations
Providing Required Resources
Creating Safe Learning Spaces
Scaling Agile
Transformation
Creating a Shared Vision
Re-aligning Organization
Establishing Consistency
Sustaining Agile
Transformation
Evolving a Culture
Establishing Boundaries
Enable Continuous Learning
https://www.agilealliance.org/resources/experience-reports/the-state-of-agile-transformation-in-the-indian-subcontinent/
Recap
• Complex problem
solving requires an
environment that
supports creative
freedom.
• Agile is the new
operating system
for new-age
organizations.
• However, effective
transformation
requires holistic
change
management!

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Agility from First Principles

  • 1. Agility from First Principles Tathagat Varma Strategy & Operations, Walmart Global Tech Doctoral Scholar, Indian School of Business (ISB)
  • 2. What is Agile? • Seventeen leading software practitioner-cum-methodologists came together in 2001 to author Manifesto for Agile Software Development.Practice-led • Originally created in response to the “alternative to documentation driven, heavyweight software development processes” that were not effective in a fast-changing world. Effectiveness • Described by 4 core values (“what”) that emphasize on People, Value, Collaboration and Adaptation.4 Core Values • Supported by 12 principles (“how”) that provide functional guidance on what does it mean to be agile.12 Principles • Specific frameworks, methodologies, methods and practices are not identified in the Agile Manifesto. These are typically part of specific frameworks such as XP, Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, etc. Generic
  • 3. How it all started? • The New New Product Development Game – Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, HBR, Jan 1986 • They studied: • FX-3500 medium-sized copier (introduced by Fuji-Xerox in 1978) • PC-10 personal-use copier (Canon, 1982) • City car with 1200 cc engine (Honda, 1981) • PC 8000 personal computer (NEC, 1979) • AE-1 single-lens reflex camera (Canon, 1976) • Auto Boy, known as the Sure Shot in the United States, lens shutter camera, (Canon, 1979) https://hbr.org/1986/01/the-new-new-product-development-game
  • 6. Purpose (“Why”) Transcend all aspects of a business to deliver highest customer value in the most cost-effective manner by eliminating wastes and delays, reducing inventories and technical debt and optimizing lead times and cash cycle.
  • 7. Human Capital (“What”) Pursue a people-first approach by nurturing growth mindsets and giving them a choice to work with like- minded peers in small high- performing teams, often co- located, with cross-functional skills, that can quickly self- organize in line with dynamic external environment, on creatively solving meaningful problems that provide cognitive stimulation.
  • 8. Way of Working (“How”) Leveraging empirical processes designed by the people working on the problem, that promote complex problem solving by conducting small safe- to-fail experiments in quick iterations and delivering work in small increments to collect frequent feedback in order to continuously align the performance.
  • 9. Leadership (supported by “who”) Elevate the leaders into servant leaders who facilitate harnessing the full potential of its human capital by creating and growing an environment of trust, mutual respect, openness, transparency, values and teamwork.
  • 10. Culture (supported by “how”) Till the fertile ground with psychological safety where human potential is fully realized by promoting continuous learning through experimental and experiential means, enabled by collaboration across boundaries, amplified by learning feedbacks from meaningful intelligent mistakes and riskworthy brilliant failures!
  • 11. What really is agile? A philosophy A mindset A culture
  • 15. Self- organizing teams Leading Teams: Setting the stage for great performance - J. Richard Hackman
  • 18. Psychological Safety • Ability to innovate is key for organizations and teams today. • However, organizations often ignore lower-level safeties and directly expect innovation which requires Challenger Safety. • Key is to systematically build inclusion, learner, contributor and finally challenger safety in order to bring about ability to innovate the organizations and teams. The Four Stages of Psychological Safety - Timothy Clark
  • 21. Thinking in MVPs “A picture used to be a sum of additions. In my case a picture is a sum of destructions.” – Picasso, 1935 https://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/animals_in_art/pablo_picasso.htm
  • 22. The United States’ First Fighter Jet • In June 1943, the U.S. Army’s Air Tactical Service Command (ATSC) met with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to express its dire need for a jet fighter to counter a rapidly growing German jet threat. • One month later, a young engineer named Clarence "Kelly" L. Johnson and his hand-picked team of engineers and mechanics delivered the XP-80 Shooting Star jet fighter proposal to the ATSC. Shortly after, the go-ahead was given for Lockheed to start developing the United States' first jet fighter. This project marked the birth of what would become the Skunk Works®, with founder Kelly Johnson at its helm. • The formal contract for the XP-80 didn’t arrive at Lockheed until Oct. 16, 1943, four months after work had already begun. This would prove to be a common practice within the Skunk Works. A customer would go to the Skunk Works with a request, and on a handshake the project would begin – no contracts in place, no official submittal process. • Kelly Johnson and his team designed and built the XP-80 in only 143 days, seven less than was required. • It was Kelly’s unconventional organizational approach that allowed the Skunk Works to streamline work and operate with unparalleled efficiency. He challenged the bureaucratic system that stifled innovation and hindered progress. His philosophy is spelled out in his 14 Rules and Practices. https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/who-we-are/business-areas/aeronautics/skunkworks/skunk-works-origin-story.html
  • 23. Kelly’s 14 Rules and Practices 1. The Skunk Works® manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or higher. 2. Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the military and industry. 3. The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people (10% to 25% compared to the so-called normal systems). 4. A very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided. 5. There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly. 6. There must be a monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program. 7. The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontract on the project. Commercial bid procedures are very often better than military ones. 8. The inspection system as currently used by the Skunk Works, which has been approved by both the Air Force and Navy, meets the intent of existing military requirements and should be used on new projects. Push more basic inspection responsibility back to subcontractors and vendors. Don't duplicate so much inspection. 9. The contractor must be delegated the authority to test his final product in flight. He can and must test it in the initial stages. If he doesn't, he rapidly loses his competency to design other vehicles. 10. The specifications applying to the hardware must be agreed to well in advance of contracting. The Skunk Works practice of having a specification section stating clearly which important military specification items will not knowingly be complied with and reasons therefore is highly recommended. 11. Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesn't have to keep running to the bank to support government projects. 12. There must be mutual trust between the military project organization and the contractor, the very close cooperation and liaison on a day-to-day basis. This cuts down misunderstanding and correspondence to an absolute minimum. 13. Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled by appropriate security measures. 14. Because only a few people will be used in engineering and most other areas, ways must be provided to reward good performance by pay not based on the number of personnel supervised. https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/who-we-are/business-areas/aeronautics/skunkworks/kelly-14-rules.html
  • 24. Agile for Cyber- Physical Systems (CPS) • Agile, especially the agile thinking is fairly generic. • However, the Laws of Physics must be maintained for CPS. • The approach would be to follow the first principles, suitably adapted to CPS. https://agileforhardware.org/about_mahd/
  • 25. JAS 39E Saab Gripen
  • 26.
  • 27. Agile Transformation • Agile Transformation is enterprise change management in holistically adapting to the new way of working. • Agile Adoption might only require introducing some agile practices without getting to the core of agile way of working. Mindset Culture Frameworks and Methodologies Methods and Practices Tools
  • 28. Frequent pitfalls Agile Adoption Lack of Vision Lack of Business Alignment Internal Resistance Enable Agile Transformation Setting Realistic Expectations Providing Required Resources Creating Safe Learning Spaces Scaling Agile Transformation Creating a Shared Vision Re-aligning Organization Establishing Consistency Sustaining Agile Transformation Evolving a Culture Establishing Boundaries Enable Continuous Learning https://www.agilealliance.org/resources/experience-reports/the-state-of-agile-transformation-in-the-indian-subcontinent/
  • 29. Recap • Complex problem solving requires an environment that supports creative freedom. • Agile is the new operating system for new-age organizations. • However, effective transformation requires holistic change management!