Northlake College Wk 8 Agile

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Discussion 13 – Lean Practices & Continuous Improvement in Agile

Lean Practices & Continuous Improvement in Agile

The agile frameworks are software development approaches or methodologies based on the values and principles defined in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. The agile values and principles help agile teams eliminate the bottlenecks and shortcomings of the traditional approaches and thrive in highly competitive and uncertain environments by helping them quickly adapt to changes and keep innovating to stay ahead of competitions. One of the fundamental concepts behind the agile process is to build a product that meets customer’s demands quickly and efficiently. The agile lean emphasizes this even more. The core idea of lean practices is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste (Greycampus, n.d.). What this means is to reduce the wastage of cost, schedule, and resources while maximizing their usage to increase return on the investment. The ultimate and ideal lean process will create zero waste. The lean thinking changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets, and vertical departments to optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets, and departments to customers (Greycampus, n.d.). The importance of minimizing waste but maximizing customer values is very important in today’s competitive market, where software companies constantly need to improve their practices by employing appropriate methodologies, tools, technologies, better engineering, etc to stay on top of the competition. One of such successful and productive approaches is a combination of the Agile and Lean methods. Lean comprises five distinct steps including Value, Value Stream, Flow, Pull, and Perfection (Poppendieck & Cusumano, 2012). Similarly, several established Lean practices are adopted by the company to achieve Lean Principle. Addressing Bottlenecks, Deferring Decision Making, Considering Incentives, Measuring and Managing WIP and Kaizen are some of those Lean Practices commonly practiced by organizations to implement the Lean Principle in a project.

Addressing Bottlenecks: The team can define the criteria to identify bottlenecks. Much of these bottlenecks in software projects comes usually from bugs, human error, inefficient technology, and lack of proper infrastructures. For all these kinds of bottlenecks, the team should provide a rough way to address which can be fine-tuned when the details on bottlenecks appear clearer and the entire team is responsible to address these challenges.

Defer Decision Making: In this practice, the team pushes the decision-making action as far as possible. The decision-making is usually postponed to the last moment. This is something that goes against agile practice where decision-making is encouraged to be on time.

Considering Incentives: While practicing to consider incentives, the motive is to encourage the team to be more productive. The effort invested by the team is acknowledged by the management and the team becomes motivated. Incentives can be monetary or non-monetary. Prizes, gifts, promotions, recognizations, job benefits all can be considered incentives.

Measuring and managing WIP: The work in progress should be measured and managed. The transparency in the amount of work done and the amount of work left can provide great insight on how to proceed to the next delivery or the planning. All projects need oversight to reduce waste and to reduce risks.

Kaizen: Kaizen focuses on the continual improvement of the process in a company (Shahzeydi & Gandomani, 2016). The entire team should be focused and work on improving the process and manufacturing of the product throughout the life cycle of the project.

Continuous Improvement is a strategy where everyone in a team collaborates to improve the quality of the product and efficiency of the building process throughout the projects which are done in an incremental fashion, small improvement at a time but continuously. The lean practice “Kaizen” discussed above is a continuous improvement process as well. PDCA ( Plan, Do, Check and Act) is considered to be a scientific approach to continuous improvement.


Greycampus. Agile Framework Lean. (n.d.).

Poppendieck, M., Cusumano, M. A. (2012). Lean software development: A tutorial. IEEE Software, 29(5), 26–32.

Shahzeydi, M., & Gandomani, T. J. (2016). Adding lean principles to agile software development: A case study report. International Journal of Software Engineering and Technology.

Discussion 14 – Earning the Seat (Risk, Quality, Shadow IT)


Earning the Seat (Risk, Quality, Shadow IT)

In chapter 10 of the book “A Seat at the Table,” the author has discussed how the presence of uncertainty has made Agile approaches work better than traditional plan-driven approaches. Leaders of corporates have to make various decisions under conditions of tremendous uncertainty, and the chances are high that those decisions may turn out to be wrong (Schwartz, 2017). However, the Agile way to deal with uncertainty is to create options and then get information to assess probabilities more accurately. The main risk that leaders should be worrying about is the cost of not meeting the business objectives on the designated schedule and at the designated cost (Schwartz, 2017). Hence, the leaders of organizations should take risks, not avoid them. Uncertainty is why a good leader will often have to make wrong decisions to learn and gain experience and add business value by adopting an intelligent attitude toward risk (Schwartz, 2017).

Chapter 11 emphasizes that a leader should have the necessary technical skills to impact the organization, make impeccable decisions under uncertainty, and then have the courage to face the consequences when things go wrong. This chapter circles around the IT department and why it is one of the hardest things to explain why all the failure in IT is considered acceptable (Schwartz, 2017). Any other department in the company that causes outages and expensive mistakes would have been fired. However, IT folks develop thick skins or rationalization skills to balance risks with costs of mitigating those risks and making good decisions (Schwartz, 2017). However, it is often challenging to gain a seat at the table when IT is constantly failing. But, on the other hand, if IT leaders are reacting to statistical noise about failures that they have chosen to accept destroys the business value (Schwartz, 2017).

Chapter 12 discusses Shadow IT, which is defined as a powerful phenomenon that we have not yet learned to take advantage of, caught up as we are in the control model of IT. It happens when the IT organization cannot meet the needs of a part of the company, perhaps due to capacity constraints or to the governance process’s limitations (Schwartz, 2017). When Shadow IT arises, someone is filling up the gap by doing what IT cannot do. That person is doing the IT work without reporting to the IT department. Hence, it is suggested that organizations encourage shadow IT to take advantage of the skills and enthusiasm across the organization (Schwartz, 2017). A successful organization can harness the community aspect of today’s IT work environment. Also, organizations can utilize a community-oriented model to overcome some of the problems IT has faced and achieve positive outcomes for the company (Schwartz, 2017). The Agile way of working supports a community approach to IT, where IT leaders achieve their objectives by mobilizing the skills and passions of a broad community. It also encourages the members of that community to work together across organizational silos that value skills and contributions (Schwartz, 2017).

An IT leader adds business value by adopting an intelligent attitude toward risk. Risks can not be eliminated, but precautions can be taken to minimize those risks and complete the projects within the allocated budget and time. The point mentioned by Schwartz describes that all actions taken by the leaders toward the future or in an unfamiliar situation are risky. However, they should have the courage to make the right decision or prepare for the consequences and make the most out of it through experience (Linders, 2017). It is essential to understand that taking a risk may at times lead to an erroneous result. However, the leaders should go ahead and take risks, be accountable for outcomes, and shoulder risks for the project team (Linders, 2017). The project team can be innovative and motivated when the leaders implement their creativity to figure out how to handle the risks to work freely and without frustrations (Linders, 2017). Traditional project management approaches focus on risk management early in the planning phase, but modern Agile project management looks for risk throughout the project lifecycle. It also involves customers to help mitigate risks and ensures the project is delivered on time and within the budget. Hence, IT leaders should monitor and manage the project to ensure that it stays on track and emergent risks are addressed. Risks are inevitable, but adopting an intelligent attitude towards risks may help leaders to create strategies to mitigate such risks.

Schwartz, in a statement, has mentioned that it is essential in the Agile world to know about how to fail often but fail well. I think he meant that the Agile teams progress and innovate new ideas or products through experimentation, which is the willingness to fail to effectively manage risks and stimulate innovation in user-experience design and requirements definition. Failing is a sign that the Agile team is trying new things, being innovative, and testing the hypothesis (Schwartz, 2017). A fair amount of failure is also a sign of the right risk/value trade-offs that the team is making (Schwartz, 2017). The risk of small failures caught quickly in testing is so low that the Agile teams should encourage these kinds of failures to increase innovation and improve informed decision-making (Schwartz, 2017).

As mentioned above, Shadow IT is the IT out of the organization’s control, and it happens when an organization can not meet a part of the company’s needs due to capacity constraints or the governance process’s limitations (Schwartz, 2017). According to Schwartz, someone in another department or a different part of the organization can help to fill the gap that IT cannot do (Schwartz, 2017). Or in other words, it is an opportunity to create a community-based environment that enables everyone to help each other with the knowledge and ideas they possess and help organizations fill the gap that it lacks in its core team.


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