The false choice between process and agility

Now Starbucks print warnings on their straws. “Not recommended for use in hot beverages.”

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Relentless rules, caveats and documentation are not likely to feed agile processes and innovation.

Agility trumps process. But there a third element that determines both – scale.

Heavy process is seldom chosen, it’s a by-product of scale. You can be agile the first time, the tenth time, but the hundredth time, the thousanth? Whether it’s coffee shops, construction projects or customers the logic is inescapable and the weight of process bears down on you.

You don’t chose process, but you do want to achieve scale, and process is the baggage that comes with repetition.

Netflix embrace agility, but will they still be able to do so when they are the main player in entertainment rather than the upstart competitor?

4 responses to “The false choice between process and agility

  1. Good analysis. I cautioned that as we “encounter reality” even the most agile approach will start to take on overhead as we try to fix every problem possible (see http://pmtoolsthatwork.com/why-waterfall-project-management-threatens-to-return/).

    While this may be inevitable, we may be able to slow the “decline” by recognizing the pattern and taking (or not taking) action..

  2. I agree, looking at your article the point I came away with was it’s really far more of a continuum than a discrete choice between agile and waterfall and so the right question to ask is how much you want to lean (no pun intended) in one direction or the other rather than either or.

  3. I have been trying to strike the right balance between process and agility and appreciate how scale dictates that. I find it is harder to strike the right balance in a professional services company than it is in a product house or internal customer base. Good post. Here is me thinking out loud on this … http://wp.me/p1qwwg-1r. Welcome your feedback.

    • Thanks Shoaib, I enjoyed your post. It’s a fair point that not just scale but industry also determines the degree to which process is required.

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