Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Startups are agile by their nature?

Yesterday I had the privilege of presenting the topic of Agile to the portfolio of new companies being mentored by a company called DreamIt Ventures in center city Philadelphia. It's a great program, and I'm proud to have taken some time to support it. I'm sure that some of these smart folks will be successful.

The interesting thing I noticed when walking through their space was how they worked. Each "company" was a group of 2-4 people sitting around one table next to wipe boards filled with thoughts, requirements, plans, etc. The energy levels were high and everyone was focused on the short time they have together to ship this new product and form the foundation of a future company.

One of the disadvantages to selling the agile philosophy to this type of audience is that they aren't overcoming a legacy of problems. Instead of talking about the "downfalls of traditional management" and sucking them into the "wonders of agile", you have to focus on a completely different issue. Instead of saving them from their past, you are instead trying to save them from their future.

It's almost like startups are agile by their simple nature! And it's our job to point at the things they need to protect as they grow (team culture). We have to point at the guardrails they should put into place today before they are too large to recover (examples: focus on technical debt and backlog management). Their team behavior is such that they "just do stuff".

It's very similar to the environment I'm in now. It worked well under 30 people. But when my company grew to 60+, suddenly we needed some process. So, what does all this tell me? It tells me that it's time to start working on those slides for Agile 2010, because this is the exact topic I'll be talking about (Agile Transitions). See you then!

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