Understand Your Problems Before Looking for Solutions

There is, unfortunately, no “one-size fits-all” solution to any complex problem. If we accept this fact, then we must also recognize that some level of adjustment of a framework, no matter how good the framework is, will be helpful. After 20 years of Agile, a great amount is known how to do this. It definitely doesn’t require re-inventing the wheel. Unless you are in an organization whose culture demands a set solution, adjusting a framework, or even growing your own (again, if that’s what the culture demands) will be more effective.  This also can reduce resistance it might otherwise face. We must be aware of the tradeoff of the value of a set approach has with the resistance it might cause.

It is important that we attend to an organization’s culture and current state prior to doing a large-scale adoption. Although SAFe proponents suggest an “all-in all-the-way” adoption, even when we were gold partners with SAFe we never abided by that mandate. Taking a quick look to see what’s needed and adjusting for that does not take a long time and is more than worth the investment. This is not to say that we need to make custom solutions for each organization.  Most organizations’ needs overlap with others to a large extent. In any event, there are well established patterns of solutions to this set of common challenges.

Although the title of this part says “problems” it’s worth noting that a better way to think about this is  overcoming “challenges.” This is not just “pollyanna” or opportunities exist in problems.  Rather, it’s important to understand what problems are. We often think of them as a real thing. For example, most people would consider a flashing blue light from a police car behind them to be a problem. And if you don’t need a police car stopping you it probably is. But the same blue light could be a good thing if you’re driving to the hospital and about to run out of gas. What’s the difference? It’s what you’re trying to accomplish at the time. In the first case you want to go somewhere without interruption (or getting a fine). In the second, you also want to go somewhere but have another problem (or should I say ‘challenge’) of running out of gas.

The reason this distinction is important is that behind every ‘problem’ there is something you’re trying to do – and you’re having a challenge in getting it done.  Thinking of it as a challenge reminds you of what you’re trying to accomplish – and you might find there is some other way of achieving that. Having alternatives to achieve your desired result provides options that you can pick by attending to your situation.

In this section I’ll look at: