The Narrative Project: Agile Development and Business Working Together

Added to Business Community Mindset

Daniel Pink said, “We are our stories.  We compress years of experience, thought, and emotion into a few compact narratives that we convey to others and tell to ourselves.”   Stories give us the ability to see from the perspectives of the people in our Agile community, and in turn give us insight about the world so we can perhaps change it for the better.   That is really what the Narrative Project is all about.

Now saying this I know that doing both are not at all easy.  Collecting and analyzing enough data to give us a more global insight of the major and minor themes in our community is a huge task.  The same can be said for how we change situations for the better for all of us.

At least the first part of the problem has been addressed with a number of methods created over the last several decades in the field of Sense-making.   I first learned about all of this when I sponsored a large Sense-making activity back at Intel Corporation with the help of Dave Snowden at Cognitive Edge a number of years back.   Dave taught us how we can collect hundreds of stories and look for strong and weak patterns in the data.

If you have gone to the Narrative Project story collection page, then you are seeing at least the first part of that methodology—collection of a story with metadata.   The metadata is how we look for patterns across all of the stories submitted.  For example, you can see the following pattern emerging when we ask about sharing a situation around Agile and business working together:

Every red-dot is a story of concern and every black-dot is a story about hope.  As you can see we have a very strong signal of concern about the environment around Agile development working within a business.   Story headlines like “Waterfall in Agile clothing,” “Failure to deliver business value consistently,” “Why do I even try,” and other areas of concern are represented there.   Things that overall I really don’t like to hear about in our community, but as you can see the collection of the metadata along with the story solves the problem of finding patterns of where we need help.

So then how do we address the issue of creating change?  Well this is where you come in. I would like your help at Agile 2017.   In the Business Agility Lab, we will be self-organizing into small teams to build knowledge around the exemplars in the stories we have collected, and we will be building experiments on how we may be able to amplify the positive themes and dampen negative ones across our Agile community.

The benefit of your participation will be exposure to a method you may be able to use to improve your own company.  The benefit to the Agile community is that we may find ways to work the Agile mindset better into the fabric of our companies.  I hope you join me at the event.  Lastly, if you have not summited a story yet please take 10 minutes and do that today!

About the Author

Ray Arell is focused on helping our corporate members take better advantage of the Agile mindset and methods. His 30+ year career has been dedicated to building great teams, communities, and products. Through his leadership, he has directly built and transformed a number of successful worldwide organizations and over the past 5 years has been coaching other leaders to do the same with their own teams. He is recognized as an industry leader in large scale adoptions of Agile, lean, and complex systems, and he has delivered over 20 keynotes and talks sharing his knowledge across the globe. Ray is also a founder and owner of nuAgility, LLC.


This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.