Mitigating clashing paradigms between Agile Development and ISO 9000

There are, on a philosophical level, significant clashes between the agile paradigm and Quality Systems such as ISO 9000 or CMM/CMMi, this is already presented in the Agile Manifesto. Agile Development is based on what I would call post-modern paradigms when compared to the plan-driven and early iterative development methodologies which are based on a positivist paradigm.

The underlying philosophical challenges cannot be easily mitigated. But a purist agile paradigm may tend to stress a positivist paradigm as well and this can be dangerous since then agile would not be agile any longer.

While it may not be possible to completely remove the challenges between agile and quality systems, it is possible to learn to live with some tension between different paradigms. 

There are some obvious areas of conflict, for examplethe Agile methodologies strongly discourages unnecessary documentation, and questions that it is possible to provide all requirements up-front. ISO 9000 on the other hand demands requirements up-front and documented evidence of almost anything, but such practical aspects can actually be mitigated with relative ease. Other aspects may demand much more effort. In particular the internal auditing process is problematic and other means of ensuring compliance may have to be considered.

We have in my company systematically piloted a number of organisational changes in order to better support agile development. We have done this within the overall framework of our ISO 9000 system which is used a structure anda a gatekeeper. To do this we have used Action Research, which in it self is a kind of agile methodology, although of much older date than agile development.

I will in my talk focus on the practical experiences we have had of building an organisational framework for agile development and while doing that suggesting a few means to mitigate the challenges mentioned initialy.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

  • Presenting the paradigms underlying TQM/ISO/CMM as well as those underlying Agile and motivate why they can clash
  • Discussing how practical challenges can be resolved
  • Describe how we based on action research have changed our organisational structure to better support agile development within an ISO 9000 TickIT system.
  • Suggest means for fruitful coexistence, including how to create boundaries for the Quality System as well as for the agile methodologies.
  • Q&A + Discussion

 

Learning Outcome

  • Understand the different paradigms underlying Agile and Quality Systems.
  • Learn and understand that the tension can be healthy and even lead to better software, as long as there are clear boundaries to what the Quality System can determine and where the Agile team must have full freedom.
  • Rather than seeing the paradigms as competing paradigms, learn to see that a constructive co-existence can with mutual respect  create a greater wholeness.
  • Get a broader view based on accepting that heterogeneous competing paradigms can create a broader and more useful view of quality than any of the paradigms can do on their own.

Target Audience

Agile practitioners frustrated with conflicts with Quality Systems, Managers frustrated with agile practitioners

schedule Submitted 3 years ago

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comment Comment on this Proposal
  • Ravi Kumar
    By Ravi Kumar  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Mikael,

     

    Thanks for submitting your proposal.

     

    Reading through your proposal I see there are lots of things going on but unable to see the tangibles. On one hand you are explaining how traditional quality systems and agile can co-exist and then you are also talking about internal audits and Action Research. I certainly disagree on the conflicts that you have elaborated 

    What would help is trim the synopsis into a crisp outline that the audience can easily relate to and understand. If the basic preimise of the proposal is to share how you went about setting up an organizational structure that enable co-existance of agile and traditional systems that is unique then that could be interesting. I would also consider reducing the duration to a 45 min.

     

    Best regards,

     

    Ravi

     

    • Srinath Chandrasekharan
      By Srinath Chandrasekharan  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Mikael,

      In addition, can you also elaborate on how this is a candidate for offshore-distributed Agile ?

      • Mikael Gislen
        By Mikael Gislen  ~  3 years ago
        reply Reply

        I have changed it to beyond-agile, which may be more appropriate, sorry.

    • Mikael Gislen
      By Mikael Gislen  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      I have updated the proposal.

    • Mikael Gislen
      By Mikael Gislen  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      First, you are not motivating why you disagree with the conflicts I describe, it would be helpful if you do. I have done extensive literature research and can motivate my case well. I assume that you mean that there does not HAVE to be a conflict and then I would agree, but based on the extensive amount of writing around regarding conflicts between plan-driven development and agile, I think the problem is quite real out in companies... On the other hand, It think my statements above made it quite clear that I believe agile can well exist inside a quality framework, so I doubt we differ too much...

      1. When  it comes to the philosophical conflict, I am relating to the historical background and the paradigms. For example clause 7.2.1 and 7.2.2 in the ISO manual assumes ALL requirements are available before accepting a project from a client. User Stories are not normally as specific as would be assumed by these clauses. Now this can be mitigated, and I believe we are fulfilling these at least as far as you can in an agile environment.

      2. More concerning is that ISO with its roots in BS's defence manufacturing is based on documented evidence, and lacks focus on leanness. It is true that avoiding waste has been added in ISO9001:2008 but it is weakly supported in reality.

      3. The focus in my talk is how we have changed various corporate supporting structures such as ISO audit and HR processes by using action research (iterative change) in order to truly support agile development without making the frameworks unnecessary heavy.

       

  • Pramod Sadalage
    By Pramod Sadalage  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Mikael,

    Would you be willing to distill your thoughts and learnings in to a 20 min experience report, I think this would make sense in organizations where ISO and CMMi are established practices. This proposal actually makes senese in the distributed/offshore theme, would you mind moving it there (I know you had it there in the first place).

    • Mikael Gislen
      By Mikael Gislen  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      I do to some extent agree about the grouping, but the problem is still more generic than outsourcing. I would be fine to move it though if there are others who think it belongs there more.

      Regarding length I have spoken about these challenges I find that it takes some time to establish the case for the challenges. The reaction from Ravi Kumar is not unusual at first but without explaining the ontological and epistemological difference (while avoiding a too academic perspective) between ISO and Agile it is hard to do in very short time. I also think there is a need for interaction and questions.

      I would not mind changing it to an experience report if that is preferred. But once again since our experiences are based on analysis of underlying reasons it is hard to do that without giving the background.

  • Ebin John
    By Ebin John  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Mikael,

    Interesting topic. Do you think you can do justice to this topic in 45 minutes? Have you tried it before for the same duration?

    -Ebin

    • Mikael Gislen
      By Mikael Gislen  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      I find when I speak about the challenges I have researched, that a lot of people have limited understanding of the difference between positivist and subjectivist positions, and how they relate to and explain some of the challenges between traditional methodologies and agile. Since it may take some effort to help the audience to see that even though most agile methods have a rigid approach to the engineering practices within the sprints, they also have a subjectivist view on requirements, both in regards to that they can be established in any objective manner and that they are stable. On the other hand ISO and other quality system assume that quality is defined as how well the development team has fulfillled the requirements which assumes a positivist paradigm. The latter can be described as a modernist paradigm, while agile must in this perspective be considered a post-modern perssimistic or sceptical view of software engineering. This is a challenge and a lot of software developers agile or not have not realised this difference. Obviously this is a theoretical perspective and may not matter in day-to-day development. But unless this is understood it can create chellenges between agile and QMS. I think it will take 45 minutes and I think people will also have both questions and own comments and suggestions.

  • Tathagat Varma
    By Tathagat Varma  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Mikael - From the link in your proposal, my initial understanding is that your findings are based on one Indian company working with Swedish companies where you found issues in audit being too focused on documentation and rather shallow on the core issues. I am not disputing your findings, but would like to understand if that was, in your view, a one-off case of bad understanding and execution of the audi process, or you have validated this hypothesis with some similar companies in a scientific or even anecdotal manner. This might help us all understand the systemic issue that you highlight.

    -TV

    • Mikael Gislen
      By Mikael Gislen  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      It is a bit more to it than just anecdotal evidence, even though I agree that your question is very good.

      Actually I noticed and documented the challenges in one single company, but then I went to the literature and tried to understand if there was support for what I observed and I found evidence for what I had seen might not be just a specific case, even though there certainly is certainly not one simple reason to explain the challenges.

      What I have done is to use action research to try to mitigate these problems, and I am still working on this with different approaches.

      Obviously whatever result I have found could be questioned for external validity, but hopefully the experimental approach of action research can be used in other companies to mitigate these and other challenges, hence I do think the experiences I can show with a background in the literature can be of interest for others.


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    On Agile projects we estimate user stories in order to allow team to

    1. 1. Track velocity
    2. 2. Decide scope for the Iteration
    3. 3. Help Prioritize stories
    4. 4. Help Release planning

    But most of the time we faced issues with estimation. It takes lot of time in estimating user stories, managers tend to relate estimate to number of days it will take to complete the story, in some teams estimate is equal to deadline. Most of the teams which use story points to estimate the work face these issues. This results in lack of confidence on development team when stories are taking more time to complete.

    Here I am going to talk about better alternative for both the suppliers of software products (financially and ethically) and their customers (internal and external). This alternative is being used in real companies delivering to real customers with great effect where team uses count of stories completed in an Iteration as measure of progress. Will talk about how this alternative can be used to track velocity, prioritize stories, planning Iteration and for release planning.

    I will share some exmples from my past projects where team did not use story points/velocty but used count of stories completed in Iteration to measure progress and also as best indicator of future performance.

  • Liked Evan Leybourn
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    Let's Kill an Agile Project

    Evan Leybourn
    Evan Leybourn
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    45 mins
    Workshop
    Beginner

    Other talks and games will teach you how to run a successful Agile project. Only this one will teach you how to ruin an Agile project*. In this game we will break every Agile rule, disregard the manifesto and ignore common sense in the singular pursuit of failure (and fun).

    Each of you will be part of an Agile team with a dis-engaged Customer and micro-managing boss. Being Agile, there will be daily stand-ups, planning sessions, retrospectives, and kanban boards but nothing will go as you expect.

    * More importantly, this activity will teach you "how" Agile projects can fail and the reason behind many common Agile practices.

  • Liked Gopinath R
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    3Cs for Agile Project Success - Critical Success Factors & Proven Practices

    Gopinath R
    Gopinath R
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    20 mins
    Experience Report
    Beginner

    Agile methodologies are gaining wider acceptance in Software Development and Testing due to its inherent values like Accelerate Time to Market, Eliminate Waste and flexible to adapt changes quickly. Agile practices emphasis on effective communication, collaboration and customer involvement for addressing the challenges in developing the product in dynamic business environment due to fast changing requirements. The co-location of project teams and high customer interaction throughout the project helps in achieving effective communication, team and customer collaboration.

     In an outsourced or offshore Software development, teams are geographically distributed to develop products in a collaborative and cost-effective manner by better utilization of global talents. Adopting agile methodologies helps in better ROI by developing quality products as per changing market needs in short span. Adopting Agile in global software development shall pose few challenges due to wider geographical distance, time zone differences, and cultural aspects and so on.

     

    This paper presents 3Cs – Communication, Collaboration and Customer Involvement as Critical Success Factors that need to be considered while implementing Agile for Global Software Development. It also details proven practices to address the challenges due to distributed agile software development. This paper is based on Author’s experience in executing Outsourced Product Development engagements using Distributed Agile Methodologies for co-creating Telecom products

  • Liked Raj Anantharaman
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    Cross Geo Collaboration and Delivery of Intel's Tablet - Scaled Agile and ALM Tools Story

    Raj Anantharaman
    Raj Anantharaman
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    45 mins
    Case Study
    Intermediate

    We all know it takes a group of skilled engineers and developers to deliver any successful product. But what if they are all located in various geos, have different competencies / focus areas (hardware, software), on top of it - they are given a stringent deadline to deliver? In my session I'd like to share how Intel adopted the Scaled Agile framework and a homegrown "Managed Personal Accountability" (MPA) model to deliver the first tablet solution successfully. 

    It took a combination of good Agile planning and execution (Scrum of Scrums), an integrated ALM Toolset, along with performance management metrics of MPA to deliver this project successfully.

  • Liked Joseph V
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    Tale of an Off-shore Agile Scrum Implementation

    Joseph V
    Joseph V
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    20 mins
    Talk
    Intermediate

    Couple of years ago our business unit engaged a vendor in India  to do some software development for us.  Since we are agile scrum based organization, we are seeking a vendor who has exposure to agile. We identified and signed up with a vendor to start the process. It was a ride filled lot of excitement and challenges. Finally we are able to land safely.