The Agility Volume Knob

Agility Volume Knob
I like to think I’m an Agile Pragmatist in a world of Agile Fundamentalists. I believe there is no single framework / process that is a panacea to the various issues within a software development organization, and instead processes must be adapted to fit the specific needs of a business, its customers, product, team and code base.

For me defining the right agile process is like the test an eye doctor gives you (“is this better or worse? is this better or worse?”). Rather than prescriptive adherence to a framework, I like to borrow freely from the rich mulch pile of software development methodologies, taking concepts from Kanban, Scrum, XP, Spiral, Waterfall, OOP, and more. But one simple technique I like to use before defining where to start our agile journey is an exercise I call the Agility Volume Knob.

The Agility Volume Knob asks key stakeholders in a software development process to adjust a fictitious volume knob. When the knob is turned all the way to the left, an organization requires absolute predictability in its software delivery, with a willingness to trade off responding quickly to changes in a market. When the knob is turned all the right to the right, the organization needs absolute agility, with the ability to adjust quickly to market demands.

The exercise can help an organization think deliberately about the needs of the business and its customers, and forces the recognition that absolute predictability is not necessarily a good thing (just as neither is absolute agility). The exercise can also help identify the right starting point for an organization’s agile journey, and can be repeated over time as an organization and its needs change.

Where have you set your Agility Volume Knob?