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The Two Faces of Agile

Some folks are using agile to invent. They are trying to figure out the right products to build for markets that don’t even know what they want. They are experimenting, learning, and adapting their approach based on super-fast feedback cycles… and the outcomes, the products they are trying to build, are emergent. The end goal isn’t necessarily clear at the start.

Other folks are using agile differently.

These guys are also trying to figure out the right products to build, but their markets have a predetermined notion of what to expect. These teams also experiment, and learn, and adapt their approach on super-fast feedback cycles… but the outcomes, the products they are trying to build, need to converge around set expectations and emergent outcomes aren’t always valued.

To effectively introduce agile into your organization… you need to know what kind of organization you are living in. An organization that needs emergent outcomes may reject keeping a fine grained story backlog or doing any kind of long term release planning. Likewise, companies that need convergent outcomes may reject sitting with a client and figuring it out as you go.

It always, always, always comes down to context.

Both an emergent approach and a convergent approach can work just fine, depending on your particular context. The trick is knowing the goals of your business and adapting your language and approach accordingly. If you are struggling to get senior leadership to see the merits of agile, maybe your are selling emergence when that’s not what your execs are really buying.

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