Atualização: February 14, 2023

Editores: Gustavo Ayres

Bio: Delivery Manager @ ZBRA. More than 18 years of project management experience, 15 working with agile development, and 16 years experience in people management. Had been DEV, BA, PM, CTO and BizDev, and today is helping ZBRA to move some gears.

Thoughts on Agility for 2023

Between the middle and end of 2022, I attended two relevant events that brought news and trends about agile development and the future of organizations. In Nashville, US, Agile 2022 mainly addressed topics such as empathy and organizational culture. Agile Brazil 2022 followed the same line and prioritized points such as organization, culture, and management. In both, I felt that technical issues related to software development have been increasingly neglected.

But why did this happen? Why are we no longer talking about software development to talk about management instead, especially humanized management? And what are the impacts of these changes?

Despite having started within the technology market, with the Agile Manifesto, the concept of agility has already expanded to different sectors and this is a reality. This happens because agility is able to help with daily challenges and demands, aiming to make changes in tactics and strategies faster, at the speed that the current world market has been imposing. Consequently, companies from different industries and different sizes have paid more attention to the advantages provided by agility, such as dynamism, greater productivity, and flexibility as facilitators for managing projects and especially products.

It’s a cultural issue and you can’t “install”

However, it is necessary to be aware that agility is a CULTURE. It is something that needs to be rooted in the mentality of the people who work in the company and that they understand what ‘being agile’ means. The lack of understanding of this principle and the search for ‘shortcuts’ to ‘become agile’ which many companies have been doing, is resulting in a flood of frameworks and processes that bring a false promise of a shorter path to agility. Because of this, I believe more and more that it is necessary to get back to the basics.

This mistake in focusing on large frameworks and consultancies looking for something ready to be agile but without understanding the agility culture, made companies seek speed (different from agility) without providing the necessary foundation for this. This ended up generating toxic work environments with a lack of psychological safety, which makes them environments obviously not prepared to be agile. Making places psychologically safe for people is important for agility and innovation to flourish. People need an environment where they know they can take risks in order to have the same agility in their deliveries that the market imposes.

At Agile Brazil, the impression left is that we are increasingly talking about organizations, culture, and management (whether products management, people management, or management 3.0) rather than more technical things. And when we talk about Business Agility, an extremely important point for companies that seek this aforementioned agility, I particularly believe that we are not taking advantage of the subject and not saying exactly what is expected of it, which also gives rise to the dominance of frameworks that promise to scale agility to companies such as SAFE and Agile @ Scale.

Everything is software and agility is a means to an end, not an end in itself

To escape the trap of the “Spotify model” – the model of squads, tribes, and chapters adopted by the company that was copied indiscriminately by other corporations as if that were going to solve all the problems, even when Spotify said not to do that – we are increasingly more discussing organizational design, going back to discussing Conway’s Law (structures of software systems are reflections of the structures of the organizations that develop them) and talking about Team Topologies, fractals and organizational evolution stages of Laloux, among others. And although these subjects are great and extremely relevant, the concern is with the distancing of developers from themes and discussions at events that are focused on this area.

We constantly see the growth of participation of people focused on the management level, with more and more positions and roles that were even created to achieve this agility, such as Scrum Master, Agile Coach, Agile Chapter Leader, etc. But without the involvement of developers and engineers in conversations about agility, there is a risk of having all these discussions seen as bureaucracy, precisely by the people responsible for software deliveries and who should be more engaged in the process.

Talking about humanized management, psychologically safe environments and organizational design and how this affects the delivery and quality of software is extremely important to ensure the existence of agility. However, if we do not go back to the basics, talking about agile culture and including developers in the process again, we will make agility enter a kind of vortex where it talks about itself to solve itself, while we see the problems of companies happening from the outside.