The answer to the great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.

Drawing by Marco Polenta (I want this as a poster!)

“Forty-two!” yelled Loonqawl. “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?”

“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”

As the drawing above might have slightly given away already, this excerpt was taken from the wonderful and very funny book “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” by Douglas Adams. I have been a big fan of the original TV series for almost twenty years and two weeks ago I decided to re-read the book, or better the “Trilogy of five”.

While reading the above passage it dawned on me how often this situation actually occurs in real life. More specifically, how often organizations look for a solution without actually knowing what they want to solve.

It’s a totally understandable thing. As human beings we look for all-embodying solutions for whatever we face. Unfortunately, we are not very good at defining exactly what we face, so the choices we make as solutions mostly do not bring the expected, well… solutions.

In over 20 years in various IT environments I have seen this happen over and over again. From software and tooling suites to frameworks and methodologies. We are lured into choices by sales people, biased ideas from a non-realistic past, so called hypes or - the best one -“X company does it this way as well”.

Especially in the Agile world, these symptoms are shown by a majority of companies. Here I mostly see three frameworks turn up. Scrum, SAFe and “the Spotify model”*.

How can you solve this for your organization? Here’s my take.

To start, a few questions to ask yourselve:

  1. What is the direction we are taking or want to take?

There are a lot more questions to add, but if you are able to answer the above I am sure you would have a very good starting point.

Here’s the answer! Do you know the question?

Second, at least inform yourself about the possible solutions. Learn what Scrum, Kanban, XP, SAFe, LeSS, Nexus or whatever is about. The basics will do, but know what they stand for. They will help you in analyzing your options and comparing possible solutions.

So, don’t just blindly believe the consultancy firm that will probably also“help you” in implementing the solution. Or don’t just go “cargo cult” and copy-paste something that seems to be successful in another organization. Be informed and think critically!

Third, be aware. No, be very aware. No, ensure you deeply understand the changes required from your organization in order to adopt the chosen solution. You can adopt an Agile framework and never be Agile. I firmly believe that in this case you will not find the solutions you are looking for. So, know what this being really means and be prepared to accept the consequences. Change is hard.

Last but not least. If you’re not really sure, pick one and try. Start, but start small. Think incremental, iterative and empirical approach. Think self-organisation.

Now that I am typing this: Think Scrum. But enough for today. I will leave that for my next writing or another passage from another book I am yet to find.

* Rule number one of the Spotify model: “There is no Spotify model” (there are only solutions to issues Spotify was facing at a certain time)

**I have deliberately put two questions here as I believe there’s an important nuance in them.

I consider myself an Agile explorer. Always seeking ways to make work and life better by — together with others — challenging the status quo.

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