In this episode, we explore Jim Benson’s latest book: The Collaboration Equation. Scrum Masters should read this book because it offers a systematic approach to building the right environment for Agile software development. Having been involved in Agile since 1997, Jim has seen many projects start with excitement, only to fall apart over time. His book offers an approach to avoid the Agile adoption decay, and a way to make changes stick by helping professionals learn to act with agency in an environment that supports their efforts. Jim has applied this approach in many different organizations, and shares some aspects of those stories in this episode.
According to Jim, every Scrum master and product owner is a change agent, responsible for bringing opportunities for change to humans. However, these change agents can become frustrated when others don’t see the clarity that Agile methodologies are supposed to bring. This is where his book comes in, helping change agents to identify the right environment for their organization by considering factors such as how work flows and what culture they want to create. By providing this systematic approach to Agile software development, Jim’s book offers a valuable resource to anyone involved in the process of change within an organization.
Discovering Agile: A Story of Continuous Improvement and Paying Attention to End-Users
Jim shares the story of how he discovered Agile software development early on in his career. He and his team tried XP (Extreme Programming) and were amazed at how they could see the fruits of their labor in just two weeks, unlike the industries where Jim had worked before. At the time, time-boxing was not considered suitable for every project, and they were searching for alternatives to iterations. Jim shares how he discovered Kanban while talking with David Anderson, the creator of the Kanban Method, and he discusses the importance of having a system that helps get the team started while avoiding the anti-pattern of relying too much on structure and not adapting to the needs of the end-users. He suggests that developers should work with the end-users and visit them to find out how their work smells.
Jim also introduces the concept of Personal Kanban, which helps individuals pay attention to the process of their work and the interactions with their colleagues. He believes that Agile is all about paying attention and respecting the people you work with. We also discuss whether the original intent of Agile has been lost, and highlight the importance of continuously improving the Agile process and paying attention to the needs of the end-users and the people involved in the project.
Team Collaboration and Adaptation in Agile Software Development
Jim discusses the team-related aspects of his book, “The Collaboration Equation.” He highlights the importance of having the right environment for collaboration and suggests an exercise to visualize what that environment should look like, the right-environment exercise. He emphasizes the need for systems that allow teams to see in real-time what is important to them and mentions Obeya, a practice that can help teams gather and organize the information they need.
Jim acknowledges that Agile has come a long way since its inception and that there are now many certifications and rules in place. However, he believes that no two teams will have the exact same process and that constant adaptation is necessary. He reminds listeners that their job is to solve problems, not just write code. The Collaboration Equation is all about having the right information at the right time to act with confidence.
Overall, this segment emphasizes the importance of collaboration and adaptation in Agile software development, and highlights the practical tools and exercises that teams can use to create the right environment for effective collaboration.
The Importance of Fostering the Right Environment for Continuous Improvement in Agile Software Development”
In the final segment, Jim talks about the importance of finding the right environment for continuous improvement and how that environment can evolve over time. He notes that continuous improvement can eventually die if the system doesn’t evolve with the team or resists influence from the outside. To prevent this, he suggests that teams focus on evolutionary design, which is the key to resilient continuous improvement.
Jim emphasizes the need for continuous thinking and paying attention to what the work requires in the moment. He quotes Laurie Anderson, who said that “art is about paying attention.” By continuously improving the design of work and adapting to changing circumstances, teams can create a culture of continuous improvement that is sustainable over the long term. This segment provides a fitting conclusion to the podcast episode, highlighting the importance of ongoing learning and adaptation in Agile software development.
About Jim Benson
A pioneer in applying Lean and Kanban to knowledge work, Jim is the creator of Personal Kanban and co-author of Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life, winner of the Shingo Research and Publication Award. His other books include Why Plans Fail, Why Limit WIP, and Beyond Agile. He is the CEO of Modus Cooperandi, and co-founder of Modus Institute. For the past two decades Jim has worked at uncovering ways for individuals and groups to communicate, collaborate, and find clarity in unpredictable and amorphous environments.