The New Agile – Size Matters

Coming up on the 15th year of agile, do we understand business better?

Remember that agile started in development teams? As the time passes, we feel that the agile manifesto can be applied also at the product level, and maybe even at the portfolio level. There’s definitely a demand for scaling the process from the business side.

Let’s take a couple of examples on how we moved on. Since we’re talking scale, it makes sense to start small.

Do you know about A3? It may sound like a great nineties boy band, but in fact it’s a paper size. We use A3 as a canvas, like the one here from Lean.Org:

What’s so special about an A3 size canvas? Believe it or not, It has a lot in common with agile iterations.

Iterations are artificial boundaries in time. There’s nothing real in there, except once we accept working with them, we suddenly have a deadline every two weeks. Our behavior changes because there’s a constraint.

A3’s size is another type of constraint. A visibility constraint. We can write very long documents, include a few presentations, and even some cool looking charts to explain what’s so great about the next year.

Or, we can use the constraint to filter all the buzz out, and create a succinct description that fits into the page’s cells. We can write those in, or we can fill the space with sticky notes. What matters is that we can’t overflow. If we do, we need to take something out.

Constraints such as this help us focus, and weed out the trash, leaving us with common basis and (hopefully) understanding.

A3’s can be used for anything, and the concept of introducing constraints can be applied anywhere (like, say backlogs. Or WIP). Here’s another example of an A3 sheet, this time for products, the product canvas by Roman Pichler:

This time the sheet is used for describing product information. And we can go on with ideas on how to use A3 for different purposes.

Filling an A3 canvas is usually a collaborative effort. The A3 is the board (again, a visibility enhancer), where everyone sees and (hopefully) understands the same intentions. If that doesn’t happen, we should be glad because we caught this early. Visibility FTW!

A3 is not the only old-new idea. Stay tuned.

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