Experiments with Agile Practices

In OpenSpace Agility, we hold that, rather than telling teams what they “should” do, teams must instead choose their own practices, and experiment with them. And it is best if  they then tailor and tune these practices to fit their context.

The one constraint is the Agile Manifesto: teams are taught the 4 core values and 12 supporting principles of the Agile Manifesto, and then encouraged to try practices of their own choosing which align with the Manifesto.

The two main outcomes of OpenSpace Agility are high employee engagement and continuous organizational learning. These two properties are correlated. By inviting experimentation, OpenSpace Agility helps to achieve both.

Experiments with Agile practices engage people in direct learning experiences, because they are:

  1. Authorized by executive leadership
  2. Celebrated through storytelling
  3. Confirmed by the Agile Manifesto
  4. Facilitated by process facilitators
  5. Time boxed by the 100 day experimentation period
  6. Rooted in the organization’s reality by using working projects as context
  7. Inspected and adjusted during the second Open Space meeting

 Experiments drive learning

Organizational learning happens when people question the way things are, try things together and make meaning together. Since there is no one way to “do Agile” but many ways to practice Agility, experimentation explores what works and what doesn’t for the people involved. To avoid focusing on quickly finding the “right” way to implement Agile (which often results in rigid, sub-optimal practices), everybody is invited to experiment and create situations where learning can take place.

Leaders and initiators of new or established practices can emerge and become actors in the organization’s now-emerging story of change and learning.

Some Agile practices are formalized and described in numerous sources including Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming etc. Other Agile practices will emerge as things to try in accordance with the Agile Manifesto and the organization’s purpose, culture, context and situation. Questioning assumptions behind current practices by asking “why are we doing this?” and articulating  “we must assume x, y and z” is a great way to explore answers to “what would Agile do?”

Fear and worry impede learning. When skepticism, worry and resistance get in the way of experimentation, it can be helpful to remind ourselves and others to:

  1. Suspend disbelief
  2. Act as if
  3. Pretend these practices can work

When experimenting, nothing is set in stone. All experiments will be subject to inspection and adjustment during the second Open Space – where all voices are equally welcome to speak.


Written by: Louise Kold Taylor, OSA-Certified Trainer