Agile for all! Well… not really…

It's all good

Written by admin

December 8, 2019

While it’s the coolest thing around, agile might not be the right methodology for you, not because YOU are not cool, but because it won’t bring the best results ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Let’s see what types of work there are and where exactly agile actually fits.

One of the most common clustering is the Stacey model:

Stacey Complexity Model

Simple = easily, knowable. My car key is simple.
Complicated = not simple, but still knowable. My car is complicated.
Complex = not fully knowable, but reasonably predictable. Car traffic is complex.
Chaotic = neither knowable nor predictable. Car traffic in Lagos(Nigeria) is chaotic.

Based on these categories, if your project falls into the Complex area, that’s where you would use Agile.

If it’s Simple, probably you don’t necessarily need any methodology, just do it ✔

If it’s Complicated, then you would focus on improving the process and reducing waste with something like Six Sigma.

You can argue that you could start maneuvering Chaos with Kanban, but I’m hoping your project isn’t quite there, right? On the other hand, where there’s chaos there’s opportunity, so don’t be afraid to pitch a solution and lead your way out of chaos and into something complex.

All clear? Probably not. There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to defining where exactly on this chart your work might fall.

So let’s take another model, about the type of product you’re trying to build, and where exactly it fits in its life cycle. Is it a new product? Is it a custom built one? Is it off the shelf? Or is it a commodity?

Evolution based Methodology – Simon Wardley


Based on Wardley’s definition, it’s quite easy to understand that if you’re building a new product, something that hasn’t been seen before, it makes a lot of sense to use Agile.

What’s important right now is for change not to be very expensive, because in new territory change is MANDATORY, in order to ensure we’re building the right product. Some examples of that would be the online shop, a whole new mobile application, a new online presence, etc.

With quick iterations and by running experiments and using lots of data, agile can help us make that happen, but it’s not so good when change is not the primary focus…

In order to use agile this way, you have to be happy with failure and living with uncertainty.


When the product has already proved itself, and we’re reducing what we’re custom building towards a full on stable product, we might look at other ways of working, like LEAN (not LeanStartup). I’m talking about growth, about increasing education of the users, and mature products. It’s important here that we learn more about how we can bring this product live to a broader audience and eliminate wasteful actions.

Everything that’s a bit custom, but mostly standard, falls into this category, all of the products that we’ve developed and are now just focusing on bringing them live to as many users as possible. Products like Jira, a CMS or other settled infrastructure products (not the ones experimenting with new technologies), could fall into this category.

In this phase of the product’s evolution, the value is proven, so we’re just adjusting little things and smoothing out problems, continuously improving.

If you’re in this phase, you have to be happy to listen to customers and feedback, but that’s not forever.


When your product has become a commodity, and everyone just expects it, SixSigma or even outsourcing it should be the solution. It makes sense to make this happen rather than wait for the market to decide. Commodity products are cheaper and wider accepted. Things like electricity, internet, email, chat, we can’t build everything on our own, there are companies that do a far better job because that’s what they focus on.

Now if we’re outsourcing the core of our business… that might be a problem, because we need it custom built for us, or even something completely new, but the standard things? Why spend time on that?

These are products where everything is common and well defined, they are essential cost of doing the business, and they deal with high volumes of work in a mature market. They do this by being standardized and stable.

You can look at this model like Pioneers (agile) doing the innovation, Settlers(Lean) bringing these innovation to maturity, and Town Planners(SixSigma/Outsourced) using these commodities to make life better without us even realizing.

An organization based on theft – Simon Wardley

*Everyone should be data driven in 2019, if you’re not measuring, you shouldn’t be building.

Where do you stand? Where should you stand?

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