Agile technical practices outside IT

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It is common to adopt several Agile practices outside IT and Software Development. It is less common to do that for Agile technical practices outside IT. Let’s see how to do that as well.

It has become common nowadays to adopt Agile and several Agile practices also outside IT and Software Development.

This is true especially for Teams collaboration and Customer collaboration practices, as well as Product related practices such as visualising the work, planning game, backlog prioritisation, products instead of projects, estimates or no-estimates, and so on.

Agile technical practices, on the other side, are very dependent on what one is doing. Agile technical practices in IT and Software Development are different from those in the automotive sectors, in semiconductors manufacturing, in Finance or in Legal services. This is why …

Each sector has to invent their own Agile technical practices.

Agile Software Development did it, thank you Extreme Programming (XP).
Inventing such practices in other sectors is not trivial.
And to enable such practices, new tools may be needed. To support the creations of such tools, it may be necessary to share those practices industry-wide instead of maintaining the secret around them (see the open-source mindset and “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” essay).

These are a few useful suggestions (coming from the experience of the Agile community and XP) on how to develop such technical practices for the work you are doing:

  • Early and frequent feedback from the Customer
    to continuously validate that we are solving the right problem and the solution works.
  • Early and frequent feedback from the work artefacts produced
    to continuously test and improve the quality and correctness of the work being produced.
  • Continuous reflection and improvement of the practices employed
    to improve and evolve the practices and the way of working and to adapt them to the work at hand with curiosity, ingenuity, experimentation and courage. Be it collective and inclusive.

A few practical tips that are good in any sector (industrial, financial, legal, engineering, education, …):

  1. Focus on specific problems (not the generic or universal)
  2. Start with local solutions (avoid the scaling obsession)
  3. Create simple working solutions & evolve (no maximalist approaches then to be tailored-down)
  4. Adopt a just-in-time just-good-enough approach (don’t try to achieve perfection up-front)
  5. Focus on one thing at the time (no multi-tasking)
  6. If something is hard, do it more often (don’t wait, while the problem grows bigger)

Other practical things that worked in several sectors outside IT, and so worth considering, are: Continuously Integrate (assemble, build, aggregate, produce), Automate Testing (to reduce or eliminate the rework, and to avoid costly mistakes for example see the simulators employed for semiconductors or constructions), Small Releases (early, frequent, incremental), Versatile Automation (think about the multi-function programmable robots of the new assembly-line).

Finally, these are the three principles that underpin all the Agile technical practices. They can be your North star while you are exploring and searching for new Agile technical practices in your sector. The purpose of all the Agile technical practices is to:

  • Increase the speed of learning
  • Reduce the cost of change
  • Tame Irreversibility (makes it fast and cheap to reverse previous decisions and recover from mistakes)

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