Take a playbook approach to Agile & Lean

Agile is a big topic that goes far beyond a set of practices and principles. Change the development cog in the larger software machine, and you change how other parts of the machine operate, too. It’s a deliberately disruptive change...

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Agile is a big topic that goes far beyond a set of practices and principles. Change the development cog in the larger software machine, and you change how other parts of the machine operate, too. It’s a deliberately disruptive change that’s supposed to make the software development and delivery machine become more adaptable, produce a higher quality product, or satisfy some other goal that makes people willing to ride the tiger of disruptive change.

Lean helps sustain Agile while driving it in the direction of value, flow, team empowerment, and waste reduction. Other practices, such as continuous delivery and design-driven development, also complement, reinforce, and supercharge Agile transformation. 

As analysts, we might treat these developments as an excuse to write research that amounts, more or less, to a list of what’s hot and what’s not. Are more organisations taking a broader approach to DevOps challenges instead of just focusing on continuous delivery? Are Agile-friendly requirements practices, such as visualisation, storyboarding, and serious games just a passing fad or permanent additions to the requirements toolkit? How many organisations have adopted test-driven development, and what are the barriers to adoption?

While these questions are important, and the answers more than a little interesting, they’re insufficient. Forrester is in the business of providing practical advice, not academic musings, so that software professionals can apply innovation strategies such as Agile and Lean immediately to the decisions they have to make today.

Organise these practices into a Playbook

The immediate connection between insight and action is the reason why Forrester has started organising its research into playbooks. The Agile and Lean playbook is a good illustration of this approach.

We might have published separate documents about continuous delivery, Kanban, visualisation, and related topics, with a mention at the end regarding what these Agile, Lean, and Agile-and-Lean-friendly practices mean for achieving better business outcomes through software development and delivery. We might also have thrown in a mention of how these practices fit into a larger road map for Agile and Lean transformation. Space permitting, we might also have squeezed in a few words about organisational concerns such as new roles and responsibilities, new staffing requirements, and what it all means for outsourcing.

But that approach gets our priorities backwards. Our clients are trying to connect Agile and Lean to business outcomes. They’re trying to decide if they’re on the right path toward Agile and Lean transformation and, if not, what adjustments to the road map are necessary. They are trying to scale simple decisions at the team level to tougher decisions at the enterprise level. And unlike analysts who talk about Agile and Lean, they have to make some difficult decisions about roles and responsibilities, staffing, and outsourcing that will expand or constrain what their organisation is capable of doing for years to come.

Introducing the Forrester Agile & Lean playbook

Therefore, Forrester decided to organise playbooks around the decisions, not the practices. In the current and planned research about Agile and Lean, you’ll find a lot of mentions of topics such as DevOps, but you’ll find it within discussions of the Agile and Lean road map, tools investments, and business imperatives.

Here is the current Agile and Lean playbook:

Executive OverviewMake Software Delivery More Responsive To The Business  
Discover Plan ActOptimize
Future Look: Increase Agile Efficacy To Improve Customer ValueBusiness Plan: Plan For Continuous Agile And Lean EvolutionsSkills And Staffing: Revamp Your Organization For Agile And LeanPerformance Management: Manage Your Agile And Lean Adoption Performance (October 2012) 
Business Impact: Justify Agile With Shorter, Faster DevelopmentStrategic Plan: Embrace Holistic Change To Achieve Agile ResultsPolicy And Procedures: Govern Your Agile And Lean Adoption (July 2012)Benchmarks: Measure Your Agile And Lean Adoption Success (October 2012) 
Assessment Framework: Determine If You’re Agile And Lean EnoughRoad Map: Reduce Agile Uncertainty Over Time Build/Buy Capabilities: Right Source Your Agile And Lean Environment (July 2012)Change Management: Sustain Agile With Formal And Informal Training 


We’ll supplement these official categories of playbook research with other content relevant to it. A Forrester Wave„¢ is a good example: The tools investments that help Agile and Lean transformation succeed are certainly relevant to anyone interested in the playbook, even though a Forrester Wave evaluation isn’t a required part of the playbook.

Playbooks are a new undertaking so, in true Agile and Lean fashion, we’re putting feedback loops into place. We'll be revisiting and updating some of this research over time. The comments section right below this blog post is one place you can tell us what you think of the Agile and Lean playbook. The Application Development & Delivery section of Forrester’s community site is another. Or get hold of me ([email protected]), or my co-owner of the Agile & Lean playbook, Diego Lo Giudice ([email protected]), and let us know what you think.

Diego Lo Giudice contributed to this blog post.

Posted by Tom Grant
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