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Standardization of Agile – Boon and Bane

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Standardization is a word that can evoke different feelings in people, depending on the context used. Here are 2 quotes that seemingly contradict each other:

Civilizations in decline are consistently characterized by a tendency towards standardization and uniformity.” – Arnold Toynbee


International Standards give state of the art specifications for products, services and good practice, helping to make industry more efficient and effective – ISO Charter

A study of literature around this reveals that processes that govern thinking and people’s actions should not be standardized. However, most organizations aim to standardize processes to reduce errors, provide a uniform experience and level the playing field for its employees.

The Drive for standardization occupies a central position in the unstated culture and strategy of an organization. In other words, organizations exist to make itself more efficient by repeatability, thereby aiming to improve certainty.

When Enterprises transition to Agile, they initially aim to deliver fast by cutting through “heavy process frameworks.” But as the number of teams using Agile increases, management finds the differences between teams disconcerting. Self-organization goes against the very culture and this point, a formal team to guide the Organization in its Agile journey takes shape.

Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters start to “define” a standard Agile methodology for all teams, to make sure that consistent principles and techniques are followed. This is the danger zone for the organization.If compliance to defined Agile processes takes precedence over “being agile”, the organization ends up with another “process” replacing the current one. You lose the benefits of moving to Agile in the first place!

No two Agile teams are the same, so comparing velocities and other “metrics” don’t make sense, but the same old red goggles make management fall into the trap of “standardization” when it stifles improvement.

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Written by Sridhar J

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:03 pm

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