Agile Thinking

Over the last few years I’ve been looking to ideas outside the traditional software development community to help me understand and improve the way I work and help teams. I’ve realised that there’s something in common with nearly all of them; Lean Thinking, Systems Thinking, Complexity Thinking and in just the last few weeks I’ve come across an increasing number of references to Design Thinking. Did you spot the commonality? They are all regularly referred to as Thinking concepts. And then there’s Agile, with its silent Thinking. I’m pretty sure that anyone recognised as knowing anything about Agile will say that Thinking is a core part. A quick Google search with show that. But we don’t often say it explicitly and instead usually talk about doing Agile, being Agile or having Agility.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the community adopting the term Agile, my contribution to the retrospection on what we have learnt is to propose we remove the silencer from the work Thinking. Lets talk about using Agile Thinking alongside Lean Thinking, System Thinking, Complexity Thinking, Design Thinking and  the rest.

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9 comments on “Agile Thinking

  1. I for one always placed Agile under Lean thinking. Not to minimize the practice of Lean but it seemed where it had been placed by the software community.

    I think Agile certainly deserves a status comparable to the others that you mentioned. However, I am not sure the need to have another “thinking” process. I love the idea of just being Agile!

    Karl, it will be short lived anyway because they all turn into a “Culture” after a while! 😉

  2. What I like about this post is that it gives parity to the various types of thinking and encourages us to see Agile as part of a wider toolkit, rather than something that we ‘do’ exclusively to the exclusion of all others.

    In doing this it discourages the tendency towards a dogmatic or ideological application of ‘Agile’ It is all to easy to say to account for things by saying, ‘It’s because we’re [doing] agile’ rather than giving a meaningful explanation forthe thinking behind our actions.

    One thing I think is missing is that key to the success of Agile is that Agile Thinking finds expression in tangible, pragmatic Agile Methods.

    To quote John Seddon ‘Management is all about method'[1]

    Or in the words of Lou Reed ‘Between thought and expression, lies a lifetime’

    [1] John Seddon: Systems Thinking in the Public Sector, Triachry Press 2008 p181

  3. There are two very interesting concepts in your post.
    Seeing agile thinking as a system rather than a technique invented
    by geeks, and borrowing from other disciplines. I myself have
    learnt solution to a lot of BA issues from Medical practitioners,
    civil engineers and professional negotiators from FBI to name a
    few. The fact that we as software community are not living in a
    vaccum cube is a relalization which we need to achieve to be able
    to build our community over the shoulder of other thinkers rather
    than reinventing everything naively. Thanks for the great
    inspiration. Very well timed. I am reading a great book named ”
    thinking in systems” by Donella h. Meadows.  I found the
    concepts noted in the book as timeless.

  4. TPS is sometimes referred as Thinking People System. I
    believe it is a better name than the other.

  5. Happy to see your thoughts (sic) evolving along similar lines to mine. How do you feel about the Marshall Model and the Rightshifting Hypothesis?


    • Hi Bob

      I find the Rightshifting model is interesting and good to have in the bag of tricks. I’ve not found a direct use for it yet though.


  6. Pingback: Thoughts on Kanban Thinking | The Agile Radar

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