History of Agile (Oversimplified)

The starting point for self-organization as a technique or a practice is not unlike other agile practices. Early Agile methods were focused on a team. The perspective might have differed, but the atomic entity in consideration was always a team. Be it Scrum, XP, Kanban or anything else, in their early forms there was little mention on interoperability across teams either horizontally or vertically.

Obviously, once Agile got traction there was a need for scaling the approach up. Initially, some makeshift approaches were being made to do that (anyone remembers Scrum of Scrums?). Eventually, whole methods were built to enable large scale Agile implementations—SAFes and LeSSes of this world.

These approaches were built around a core method, typically Scrum, and took good parts of other methods whenever authors saw fit. Fundamentally, the value added of these methods was in a description how to roll everything out in a big organization. The desired outcome would be to see the core method implemented in multiple teams while ensuring some level of alignment across an organization.

It was about scaling up the method and not scaling up the principles behind. It was about getting more Scrum / Kanban / whatever teams in an organization and not figuring out how the basic values and principles would have to work if they were applied on different levels of an organization.

That’s exactly when we petrified self-organization as a technique relevant to a team and a team only.

Cultural Fit

With that founding principle, the definition of a cultural fit would be very different. A good match would mean that we share core values but beyond that, a candidate is as different from current team members as possible.

This means that friction will happen. Conflict too. Not everyone will feel comfortable all the time and not everyone will be getting on well with everyone else.

This means that when we decide there isn’t a good fit we may come up with a much more tangible explanation why. It is because we don’t share values—e.g. we perceive a candidate as disrespectful—or we don’t sense any aspect in which a candidate would stretch diversity of the team in one of the desired dimensions.

Note: not all dimensions of diversity are equal. There’s little, if any, value in my experience as a sailor in the context of product development. There’s more value in, say, cognitive studies that someone else went through. That’s why I add a quantifier “in the desired dimension” next to “diversity”.

Some time ago at Lunar Logic, we rejected a candidate for a software developer role whose focus was purely on their technical skills. There’s nothing wrong in that of course unless this is the only dimension a candidate uses to look at themselves and at others. There was some mismatch in shared values, e.g. little understanding and appreciation for teamwork and collaboration. We didn’t see much diversity that they would add to the mix either—we already have quite a bunch of excellent developers.

Interestingly, the decision was made despite the fact that we liked the candidate and were getting on well with them. That’s a complete opposite of what a naive approach to cultural fit would suggest us to do.

We believe that we are better off with that decision. More importantly, we believe that the candidate will be better off too. As long as they find a company where there’s a better overlap in shared values not will they contribute more but will also be appreciated better.

#agile #ejsmotivation #Scrum #XP #Kanban

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