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Beware of Common Sense

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: Beware of Common Sense

When working with organizations in Agile transformations, I help them to do what makes sense. I encourage them to challenge me when they think I am suggesting something that does not make sense.

Do what makes Lean-Agile Sense
Here is the rub. When I explain what makes sense, I talk in terms of “principle based” sense. Agile Sense provides a set of values and principles to guide our decisions and actions to achieve an Agile mindset. Lean Sense explains some of the process science of flow embodied in Agile methods. It is surprisingly easy to loose sight of this at key moments. Education and training on the Agile Manifesto and Lean Thinking is critical early on.The rest of the coaching engagement is a pragmatic application of Agile and Lean sense in decision making. This is a great way to help them learn and for me to make sure they understand.

Beware of Common Sense (and Be Aware of Culture)
Organizations and individuals will face challenges in an Agile transformation. They will struggle with decision making to solve these challenges. This struggle is good. But if they are not intentionally doing what makes Lean-Agile sense, they will inspect and adapt away from Agile. Teams tend to revert to solutions based on common sense in the organization. Common sense is the knowledge and experience most people have. It is based on what has “worked” in the past. It is remarkable how fast a group can slide back to what they did before based on common sense.

A Bias for Less
Common sense tells us we need more of the things on the right of the Manifesto. More documentation and following the plan. These are comfortable and safe. Agile sense encourages a bias for less on the right. Encourage a bias for less of the items on the right instead of more.

For example, as teams struggle understanding what to build, some managers want to solve the problem with more documentation. Agile Sense encourages progress towards working software. Start with getting getting better at collaboration to demonstrate software sooner.

Common sense tells us big batches lead to efficiencies of scale. Lean sense explains big batches lead to expensive delayed feedback and wasted effort that out weigh these efficiencies. Without fast feedback, we do not learn as we discover the solution.

Be Vigilant

Stay engaged in retrospectives and decision making. Look for common sense solutions.

  • A bias for more of the things on the right side of the Manifesto
  • A bias for bigger batches
  • A bias for delay in feedback

Change the conversation with Agile and Lean sense. Promote a bias for less, not more.

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