innovation in agile and how to unleash its potential

Innovation In Agile And How To Unleash It

Innovation in Agile is a concept that is very important. Agile as a process is built around problem solving. As well as using the best tool to deliver the best solution. All too often I have seen teams that fall back on prior ways of doing things. They use processes, as “that’s the way its always been done”. Or they use in place tools, because that is just what is in place. Being innovative, especially in agile software development, needs to be at the forefront. In the following I will discuss some issues encountered without it. I also have some concepts that help to promote it. All to promote innovation in agile, and deliver products of value.

Without Innovation In Agile, Problems Caused In The Process

  • Software not received in time. The team may deliver on a need or goal. However, it may miss the deadline. By missing the deadline, the solution could be reduced in value. It may have its value completely lost as well. Without the ability to innovate on solutions, the team might not build as effectively.
  • Solution quality not as high as it could be. When the team can’t innovate, they can’t try new ideas, processes, and technology and can create lesser solutions.
  • Team feels stifled, not able to problem solve. They are not able to use their knowledge and creativity.
  • Deliver the wrong thing. This is where the need or goal is not met. Because an incorrect solution is provided. The team may work to a solution, but it may be the wrong solution.

What Do We Do About This?

Embrace New Challenges For Innovation In Agile

Embracing new challenges in work goes a long ways. This mentality goes hand in hand with agile. New challenges are opportunities to learn new things. They are opportunities to try new ideas and technologies. Using them as such is a big part of innovation in agile.

Build Fast, Learn Fast, Adapt For Innovation In Agile

The idea here is to go fast and learn fast. If the team can deliver small pieces of work quickly, they can learn more quickly. Work must be kept small, so that the team can learn. This ties into the next idea, of incremental delivery. However, this stands by itself. As it is a team mentality, to take on work and move fast so that you can learn from it. The contrasting idea is to try and figure everything out about something, and then go do the work. I find that getting pieces of work out quickly is much more effective. It helps the team get to the goal faster. Build fast, and learn fast, so that you can have innovation in agile.

Include Incremental Delivery And Feedback Loops

Incremental delivery is the process of providing work in smaller, standalone pieces. Such that pieces work on their own, as much as they can. Working this way allows the team to build work piece-meal. This shortens timelines, which lets teams deliver faster and learn from their work. Thus the feedback loop is also mentioned. After delivering work, feedback on that loop is important. To learn and adjust by the team. Allowing the team to course correct towards the best possible solution.

Remove The Fear Of Failure For Innovation In Agile

The fear of failure is an attitude that is quite common.  It is where the team fears a negative reaction to their work.  This is a culture item that leadership must work towards addressing.  The team fears consequences to not delivering the right thing.  Teams need to feel safe in their ability to problem solve.  They need to be able to try new ideas.  Which lets them work towards the best solution they can present.  Lets remove the fear of failure and get back to work.  Allow teams to use their knowledge and creativity, and innovate to deliver.  Remove the fear of failure to unleash innovation in agile.  

Further Reading:

I explore Vertical Slices of work and how it applies to agile here. Vertical Slicing of Work

Additionally, simplifying work is a key practice in agile. Here I discuss the Art of Not Doing Work.

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