Imagine a world where businesses can concurrently develop next generation manufacturing processes while designing products based upon the as-yet-non-existent implementation medium. Imagine that they can do this all while reducing time-to-market and allowing the continued benefit of exponential growth in complexity every 18 months. Add a twist of “design-anywhere-build-anywhere” – and serve shaken; not stirred. Perhaps in software, the analogy might be "develop applications on a language being implemented and SDKs that will also be created concurrently – trust us, it will be fine." At the same time, many graduates from engineering colleges were learning that the soft skills of communication and collaboration had higher impact to their success than the hard earned technical skills.
In the early 1990s, an organization is asked by several of its clients to help them address time-to-market pressures. The result: in 1992 Don Carter published a book founded upon a transformational approach called Concurrent Engineering based on consulting experiences. One impact that I remember well was the increase in actual conversations amongst the various constituents - breaking down the barriers between the silos was a key component of this philosophy. Coincidentally, the quality of results increased too, along with client satisfaction.
Back to the future... Literally!
There is even more pressure on businesses to reduce time-to-market, and there are few signs that this will change or needs to change. No time for creating voluminous documentation in semi-isolation that can't capture all aspects and are often subject to interpretation by the reader. The division between hardware and software development has blurred. In fact, hardware designs are created, modeled, emulated, and the proposed implementations are verified using specialized high level languages prior to implementation. The abstracts are subsequently decomposed into manufacturable entities while continuously confirming no unintended loss of the design intent using specialized tools such as formal verification tools.
Businesses are and must continue becoming Agile – businesses are greater than having Agile development organizations. So the adoption of Agile, Scrum, and other practices continues unabated. There are even early discussions of what’s beyond these Agile practices that are standing the test of time after several decades of adoption.
Two important aspects of the Agile Manifesto are valuing “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”. It was increasingly common pre-COVID that these teams were distributed geographically and even culturally. So while tools are a part of the solution – the need to communicate well and often has never been more important. This practice is standing the test of time.
A closing note to Scrum Masters who help teams live the benefit of the cross-functionality objective: Your Scrum teacher and Agile coaches have provided you with lots of reference material about building teams and communications. Now is a good time to revisit those references; one of my favorites is “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson et al. The book addresses situations with perceived high stakes, diverse constituents, and possibly highly emotions.
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