Software development doesn’t own ‘Agile’. How you can be agile too.

Few talk about being agile without using an agile framework, but yes, you can be. Its quite simple… in theory. To be agile is to be nimble, quick on your feet…to be responsive to change. Don’t believe me? Google the word ‘Agile’. And by the way, there’s more than one way to cook an egg.

To know how agile you are, you need to understand your development cycle and the average time to get through it. How long does it take you to go from concept to cash? Is it a week? A month? A year (shame on you)? How quickly can a change in strategic direction see its way into your product or your output? By the way, this is a million-dollar question.

Homebuilders usually aren’t agile. To make a change to a home is very expensive because of the way homes are built and the technology used for their construction. The building sequence goes something like this: foundation then frame then plumbing and electrical then HVAC then windows and drywall and then detail. I probably missed a step, but you get the point. It’s a linear sequence starting from the same point. If in the middle of a new home build the owners decide the location of the kitchen should be on the other side of the building, an expensive and time consuming change request must be submitted.

Can you think of another way to build a house that keeps the door open for change (pun intended)? Perhaps building one complete, finished, usable room at a time. Also, building them in a way they can be unplugged, moved, and plugged back in cheaply. I know, I know, modular homes are a little ugly and haven’t quite become mainstream, but with enough investment and consumer interest they don’t have to be ugly.

In terms of product development, if you reduce product development cycles down to a point where change is so easy its encouraged, you’d be agile…and I don’t care how you do it. You don’t need an agile framework if you can figure out how to be agile all by yourself. Its that simple. If you did figure it out, you’d be dominating your industry and sitting back with a margarita while your competition scratches their head trying to catch up.

Here’s how you do it (and yes, one paragraph is enough explanation.) Create complete and usable versions of your product in very small batches. Solve one problem at a time and improve on your last solution. Avoid the trap of “while I’m in there, I might as well…

Reduce the size of the batches you build to as small as possible. Reducing batch size improves your responsiveness. Allow new ideas to feed back into the development cycle and advance your offering. Get input from your market, from your customers.

Is this silly? Maybe. Are others doing it? Absolutely. Besides software development, some industries that are benefiting from this way of working include fashion, biotech, and automobiles…yes, automobiles. Check my references.

How can you respond to change more quickly? How can you, in your industry, be agile with or without a framework? I dare you to respond

References:
Wikispeed: How a 100mpg car was developed in 3 months
Is this fashion trend disrupting your supply chain?
Pipeline to Scrum (biotech)

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