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July 26, 2022

Summer Read Along: A Seat At The Table | Chapter 3 – A Nimble Approach to the Table

By Lucy Softich
A photo of Lucy's copy of A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility, by Mark Schwartz. Only the upper part of the book is visible, and there are seven little blue tabs sticking out of the top of the book, labeled as follows: P2P, DevOps, Kanban, Lean, Scrum, XP, and Agile.

Cover of A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility by Mark Schwartz, a guide for IT leaders in an Agile world.In this series of blog posts, follow along as we revisit Mark Schwartz’s book A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of AgilityFive years after its publication, it’s still highly relevant and chock full of tips, tactics, and learnings. Join us as we follow along with Online Marketing Assistant Lucy Softich as she reads through the book for the first time. Make sure you start with the introduction post!


Welcome to the second week of our read-along! Today we’re looking at Chapter 3: A Nimble Approach to the Table. This is the last chapter in Part 1: Finding the Table, so we’re still dealing with context. How has IT been organized, and why?

Agile vs. Waterfall

The real crux of this chapter is how Agile stands apart from more traditional Tayloristic structures because of its flexibility. Structured plans with reliance on deadlines can work very well when tasks are identical each time, but when we’re talking complex knowledge work like IT, no two tasks are exactly the same, and plans made at the outset of a project are made when everyone involved has the least possible knowledge of the process. Thus, any plan that is not flexible is going to impede production and quality.

Much of this comes back to control, as discussed in the last chapter. Traditional methods like Waterfall and Gantt Charts have a clear structure and allow for control from the top down. When one task is finished, another begins. Since this system was designed for manufacturing scenarios where identical products are produced time after time, it’s easy to project timeframes onto future projects given the outcome of past projects. IT does not work this way, and never really has. Yes, the level of control and predictability that Waterfall promises is tempting, but given the variability of IT work, that promise is something that can rarely be fulfilled. 

However, that’s not to say there are no ways of visualizing—maybe even controlling—IT processes. That’s where new systems like Agile and DevOps come into play. Mark is able to sum it up nicely in one paragraph:

Agile thinking simply says that we should empower small teams to inspect and adapt rather than stick to a plan. Lean thinking gives that small team ways to speed up its inspecting and adapting process to maximize its impact. Continuous Delivery and DevOps place the entire value stream in the hands of that small team so that it can “optomize the whole”…and be empowered as a team to own the entire value delivery process.

Intro to a Post-Waterfall World

This chapter is excellent for anyone who, like me, is still new to Lean/Agile/DevOps principles. Mark goes deeper into Agile and why it stands in contrast to traditional Waterfall methods, but he also runs through a primer on the many similar-but-different systems, such as Lean, Agile, Scrum, etc. In fact, I found this part so useful that I marked the different pages for later reference!

A photo of Lucy's copy of A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility, by Mark Schwartz. Only the upper part of the book is visible, and there are seven little blue tabs sticking out of the top of the book, labeled as follows: P2P, DevOps, Kanban, Lean, Scrum, XP, and Agile.

Well, that’s it for today, but next time we get to start Part II: Earning the Seat.

Jump to a Chapter

Introduction & Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Kept from the Table
Chapter 3: A Nimble Approach to the Table
Chapter 4: Planning
Chapter 5: Requirements
Chapter 6: Transformation
Chapter 7: Enterprise Architecture
Chapter 8: Build Versus Buy
Chapter 9: Governance and Oversight
Chapter 10: Risk
Chapter 11: Quality
Chapter 12: Shadow IT
Chapter 13: The CIO’s Place at the Table & Chapter 14: Exhortation and Table Manners 

 

 

- About The Authors
Avatar photo

Lucy Softich

Lucy is the Marketing & Social Media Coordinator at IT Revolution. She has a background in writing, marketing, and business.

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