Opinion 2: Being Agile in a Stuck Team

Hear the term Agile Development and you may have a very specific image pop into your head. A room full of (mostly) 30-something men in jeans staring at their monitors as their fingers fly across the keyboards and Red Bull litters the floor. Maybe I’m too swayed by mainstream television and limited personal experience, but that’s what I picture.

The raw idea of Agile is simple and not wholly original: fail fast. A goal is set, and then sprints are timed out to keep everyone on track. Daily or weekly meetings allow all stakeholders, both IT and LOB, to assess what is working and what isn’t. The last bit is what truly makes it an Agile process though; based on the assessment the team actually pivots to ensure they are on track to complete the project and do their best work. This could mean throwing out an entire week’s worth of work or lengthening timelines to ensure things are done well and best fit the consumers’ needs. The workplace becomes high energy, charged with the desire to do things right the first time while still being able to experiment with ideas a week at a time.

Agile Development has proliferated the world of the coder. The process fits software well because beta versions of an application can be continuously rolled out to end users and feedback can be elicited. Working Agile in less technical environments, however, is less common. Especially in an age when knowledge and process are high commodities, this technique can be easily applied to a number of LOB work environments.

In my (admittedly short) experience I have seen what I would call pseudo-Agile attempts outside of software development. Intentions going into a project are optimistic and the small group is energetic. Inevitably what ends up happening, though, is human traits get in the way of achieving the goal. An ego thinks a task beneath him, or an eager participant overstates their skills or other tasks are given priority for no reason other than personal preference. Some very human problem bubbles to the surface and soon all that enthusiasm has evaporated leaving the team to stew in frustration.

Sound familiar?

In my opinion this comes down to one key variable: Action, or lack thereof. To fail fast one must be able to fail at all, and to fail one must first act. Make a decision. It seems where software is concerned decisions are more prevalent and accessed more easily. Decisions in more human businesses (HR, consulting, management, finance, etc.) seem so much harder to come by. This could be for a number of reasons. Those responsible for making decisions may have been taught failing is bad, and therefore they’re trying to reach perfection on the first go. The decision maker may be overworked and overstressed. Hierarchy may create a silo in the decision-making process.

There are a lot of reason for not making timely, Agile decisions. There is only way to fix it though, and that is for you to start acting. Don’t schedule another meeting to talk about what the group can maybe do next week, and definitely don’t complain and complain and complain. All businesses can become Agile, and grow tremendously in the process. You just have to act.

I hope you enjoyed my first opinion piece.  While I am away from my precious microphone this will be my primary source of contact.  Comment at will, subscribe on Google Play, follow on Twitter @AmandaDarc_ and connect on LinkedIn.

Opinion 1: Fuzzy Parts of Automation

Thirty, forty, even fifty years ago Americans and Europeans worried about their jobs being outsourced to lower-cost workers. These workers could do the same task at a much lower price point and employers, especially manufacturers, were watching their bottom line as competition through global trade grew.

Today the global workforce is in a similar situation. What we face today is not each other, though, but the prospect of losing our positions to competing humans but to highly skilled and intelligent machines.

Take, for example, Sophia. Sophia is an intelligent robot constructed by Hanson Robotics, a firm led by Dr. David Hanson located in Hong Kong. You can learn more about Sophia here, on a website dedicated solely to her. About a month ago, on Oct. 26, 2017, Sophia was the first robot to receive citizenship from any country in the world. She has been on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan, and most recently was names the UNPD’s Innovation Champion for Asia and Pacific.

That’s a lot of credit for a robot to rack up in just a few years.

And while that may be scary, there’s a lot of upside to it. Naysayers claim with automation comes the scourging of the human race as we become lazy and complacent and highly intelligent robots become our overlords. Which is certainly a possibility, but that assumption only rings true if we all hit the lowest common denominator.

What is truly great about the human race is there are a lot of us who constantly strive for better. We can’t stand to just sit around and twiddle our thumbs. So even if a robot is able to do our work better, faster, more efficiently, we’ll just look to learn and create something the robot can’t. Instead of a battle this transition should be more like a permanent vacation, the chance to do something long-term you’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance.

Not only will there be those that strive to grow creatively and intellectually to work alongside automation, new industries and roles are already growing because of automation. Right now, data scientist is one of the hottest jobs on the market. Every company not just wants one but needs one. A decade ago, this specialization was reserved for the most prestigious enterprises and institutions. As automation grows in the workplace there is also a new and continuous need to upskill and retrain human talent on the use of new processes around that automation. This takes a gentle hand to ensure those workers that a machine is not taking their job, it is simply making their day a little easier.

Automation is good. AI is good. Robotics is good. And humans are pretty good too. The future of work is a scene that takes the best aspects of those four variables and integrates them in the most effective way. Not only will this result in higher margins, greater compensation, and a better work/life balance, there will be safer products, new exciting creations, and a revolution in workflow process. It’s time to put away the fear and embrace the automation.

I hope you enjoyed my first opinion piece.  While I am away from my precious microphone this will be my primary source of contact.  Comment at will, subscribe on Google Play, follow on Twitter @AmandaDarc_ and connect on LinkedIn.