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Agile is a mindset not a methodology

“Agile is a mindset not a technology.” That’s what the head of a 500 person org at SAS said to me once. I had the pleasure to meet her…

“Agile is a mindset not a technology.” That’s what the head of a 500 person org at SAS said to me once. I had the pleasure to meet her along with 50 other software leaders at the EXO Software Leadership Summit this month where we discussed how companies large and small experience Agile and Cloud transformations. Attendees include CTO of Cloud Platform Business at VMWare, Head of UX at WebMD, Managing Director at Schwab and Directors for engineering and product from Uber. I also had the pleasure to meet Tarah Wheeler van Vlack, author of Women in Tech and CEO of Fizzmint. Here’s my picture of her autographed book:

Unlike a conference with scheduled talks and a zombie audience, we sat UN style and had frank discussions about the topics du jour. This year the conversation tended towards Engineering leadership, the structure of engineering teams, and the realities of adopting Agile and Cloud into a company. In general, there are three strong factors that correlate heavily with a company that runs Agile:

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  1. Being in Cloud and having a strong micro services architecture
  2. Having a new codebase, usually hosted in the Cloud and less than 5 years old
  3. Having a large number of customers that each have weaker voices on the product roadmap, as opposed to a handful of very large customers that are on long contracts and strongly influences the roadmap

We also had a discussion on OKRs, and since we are still early in our adoption curve, I thought I’d share some bullets on what I learned:

How other companies experience OKRs

  • Generally takes a few quarters for the organization to adopt
  • Not all implementations are across company, at two of the attending companies only one division is using it fully, but full company adoption is best.
  • O = Objectives and KR = Key Results, both can carry over across quarters, though objectives are more likely to be across-quarters.
  • There should be no more than 3–4 objectives and key results per level
  • OKRs should be measured by business value, instead of technical accomplishment
  • This 1+ hour video about OKRs is highly recommended
  • BetterWorks is a product used at one attending company to track OKRs.
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