Frameworks Are Like Radio Stations

Agile frameworks are like old-fashioned radio stations. They offer curated playlists of good practices, but many people seem to think they must use their framework’s entire playlist. Meanwhile, the world has moved on to music platforms, which offer people context, and choice.

Radio stations are a great invention. With millions of songs recorded around the world, it is impossible for any music lover to keep up with what’s available. Radio stations solved this problem by letting deejays browse through all materials and predict which songs their listeners might love. The deejays curate the content; they make selections, and they serve those choices as playlists to their audiences.

Agile frameworks are a great invention too. There are far too many good practices in the world for any agile team to keep track of. Expert consultants have tackled this problem by collecting small, cohesive sets of good practices and offering those under names such as Scrum, XP, Kanban, SAFe, LeSS, and Holacracy. Agile frameworks are curated selections of practical advice, served to specific audiences.

Agile frameworks are curated selections of practical advice, served to specific audiences.

I stopped listening to the radio around 1989. I became dissatisfied with the curation done by Dutch deejays who mostly favored British and American pop music. I had become a fan of European (and in particular Italian) dance songs, which were rarely played on Dutch radio, and I started looking for alternative sources of Italo Disco and Eurodance. I found those sources through friends with stacks of copied tapes, specialist music stores with imported records, and (some years later) MP3 download archives on the Internet.

I stopped using frameworks around ten years ago. I found the selections of practices that the agile frameworks offered both insufficient and restrictive. Like radio stations, frameworks are a good starting point for people with little experience. But once people start using them, they soon discover that they need more specialized practices from other sources. As a manager, I needed more agile management and leadership practices. I found them by exchanging them with friends, borrowing them from other companies, and reading about them on the Internet. Being a manager, I had a specific context, and I wanted choices.

Like radio stations, frameworks are a good starting point for people with little experience.

Nowadays, I am a happy-though sometimes grumpy-user of the music platform Spotify. I can find almost any song I want on this platform. Sometimes, I listen to curated playlists that have emerged, dedicated to my favorite Italo Disco and Eurodance music. Sometimes, I let the recommendation engine of the platform do its work for me because it has learned about my rather exotic music preferences. But most of the time, I like browsing through categories and search results and building my own vast collection of favorite songs. I can even invite other people to subscribe to my collections, turning my lists into playlists as if I managed a radio station!

Why is there no such platform for agile practices? People still use frameworks as if they are listening to old-fashioned radio stations, relying on the experts to make the selection of practices for them. And many teams seem to think that they must implement all practices of an entire framework, which is just as silly as believing that one has to listen to the whole playlist of a preferred radio station. The world has moved on from radio stations to music platforms. Nowadays, everyone can be a curator of music. We can all be our own deejays! So why can we not be our own agile framework creators?

Why can we not be our own agile framework creators?

My team wants to offer you a platform with agile practices. Some day, you will be able to find almost any practice on that platform. Sometimes, you may want to dive into specialized playlists of curated practices in your preferred area. Sometimes, you may want to let the recommendation engine do its work for you. And sometimes, you will just want to browse through categories and search results and build your personal collection of favorite agile practices. You will even be able to let other people subscribe to your playlists, which means that you would become a curator and producer of good practices that others want to follow.

And what will happen to the agile frameworks?

If I have my way, the old-fashioned “radio stations” of curated agile practices will turn into channels on the platform that you can subscribe to. You can decide to use everything such channels have to offer, or you can choose to make selections, using practices from multiple channels. In either case, everyone will understand that all channels and practices are optional. It is your context; you choose.


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