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3 Ideas to Staying Agile – “Compass, Cadence, Ownership”

T Ashok @ash_thiru

In today’s world of constant change, staying agile is paramount to meaningful response. This article outlines how a Compass tool, the practice of Cadence and mindset of Ownership can help you stay agile.

We all know that change is constant. We also know that adapting to change is hard. We resist change. An adaptive system responds. Responds rapidly to change. In nature, this is key to survival. And also key to delivering high performance. Change is challenging and worrisome. We resist because we are typically afraid. Afraid of possible bad outcomes. Afraid the risk it puts us in.  To adapt to change requires information. Information that we can use confidently to respond well.  

What is agility?
“If we take a very pure sense of what agility means, it is actually an organization’s innate capability to survive and thrive in the long run” says Tathagat Varma  in the SmartBites video “Agile  What is it really?…

Change in Business, Career : Compass vs. Maps
Anuj Magazine in the SmartBites video “Reinventing yourself in these changing times” says:

“A extremely successful company like Nokia was wiped out when Apple launched iPhone. Why? My hypothesis is that companies that followed a compass approach as against a map approach survived. 

Compass is something that gives a sense of direction of where you should be headed to and that sense of direction comes from knowing what is happening in your vicinity, whereas Maps tell you to go from point A to point B and not worry about what’s happening around it. 

The same analogy works very well with careers as well, when we talk about careers, it is if you follow compass approach, we will be encouraged to figure out what’s happening in our ecosystem and define the next step accordingly. If we follow the map approach the career paths tend to be more map-like ‘move from SW Engineer to Sr Software Engineer’ whereas the world around is changing and you’re still happy, scaling probably the wrong ladder.”

Change in the Organisation Structure
In the SmartBites video”The changing facet of our discipline/industrySudhir Patnaik says:

“There is a tremendous shift towards a customer-backed approach. Everything that we do is keeping our customers in mind , the extreme mindset of product ownership and the one scrum team mindset is driving phenomenal change in how we deliver product. 

I think days are gone, when you have to develop, somebody else has to test and  somebody else has to deploy. It is evolving in such a way that every single member of the team owns every responsibility. So if I am a developer or test engineer, I own development, I own testing, I own deployment, I own support. That’s the team extreme ownership. That’s a disruptor.”

Change in SW Dev Practice
“The trends which are taking over software development, the whole software space, is in being Agile. People want to be able to deliver faster and with a lot more flexibility.

So what the tester needs to understand is that he has one big constraint and that is time. So you can try and reduce, squeeze as much time as you want if attention is being paid in the right places, you’ll still get the best bang for the buck. So I think that’s where we need to look at. We need to understand what’s happening in the world outside. We need to be able to focus, plan our work and execute to the plan in whatever limited time we have”,  says Vivek Mathur in the SmartBites Video “The changing landscape of dev – What does this mean to SW testing?

In cycling/running there is an interesting concept of cadence. In the case of cycling, cadence is about how many times/minute you rotate the pedal. When you move from a plain terrain to a climb (change), the speed will drop. So the natural response is expend more power by pedalling harder to maintain the speed. The challenge is that leg muscles work harder and tire out quickly. 

This is where cadence comes handy. Instead of expending higher energy, shifting to lower gears and rotating the legs (pedals) faster results in maintaining the same speed on the incline. So it is typically recommended to spin at a higher cadence to compensate for the change. Cadence is about continuous motion to enable a good response to the change. High cadence implies nimbler movement and using information about the terrains as we ride enables one to respond  well. 

How does this relate to what we do? Break the problem into smaller chunks (lower gear) and keep the problem solving rhythm going good. 

Stay agile to respond, be alive
Constant adaptation is wonderful as it results in fluid continuous motion. A beautiful feeling of aliveness. And that is what nature is about. Continuous morphing, resulting in improvements. 

“Use a compass. Stay in a rhythm with high cadence. Own, see the big picture.”

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  1. What a wonderful analogy! Thank you for sharing…..
    Tempting Article title prompted me to read this article.

    The right analogy, told the right way.

    • Thanks a ton Halesha.

  2. Sir I am currently reading a book called The CEO factory by Mr.Sudhir Sitapati,in this book he talk about the culture build in Hul. The culture and ability to adapt to newer thought processes determines the success.The 3 mantras written by you helps any organization with a strong culture to adapt the Agile process of working.It was an interesting article to be read and followed

    • Thank you Adarsh Varma. Yes, the culture is highest in the change hierarchy, without it, the underlying actions do not have the desired effect.

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