Agile and Hip-Hop


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The thing about hip-hop today is it’s smart, it’s insightful. The way they can communicate a complex message in a very short space is remarkable. – Barack Obama

My friend Marcus Bell—a famous Hollywood singer, song writer, and producer—once said that hip-hop has four main goals. After listening to what he had said, I realized that there is so much resonance with what he said with how I see agile transformation. The four goals are as follows:

  1. Get your skills up
  2. Listen to the streets
  3. Know your audience
  4. Move the crowd

Hip Hop is a phenomenon of hipping, that experience of passion, out here. Hip hop originated in the 70’s in New York, USA, as a part of outdoor parties. It was about bringing communities together and having fun. Here’s my take on how the phenomenon of hip hop applies to agile transformation:

  1. Get your skills up: Based on the team’s skill matrix we could figure out how liquid our team is and when we encounter an situation where there are less than three experts in an area, we’ll know that growth is required in that area. That way, it will not become a bottleneck. Agile is about constantly learning and growing and we bring XP practices like pair programming, peer review, and other invaluable skills.
  2. Listen to the streets: Steve Blank once said, “Get out of the building.” Your business assumptions can be wrong. Go out and speak with your customers. In Agile thinking, we receive insights about our customers. We learn about what matters to them and how they live their lives. We also learn about what they want and how we can solve their problems. We place bets on what they might prefer and run experiments to validate or invalidate assumptions. Ash Mayura’s Customer Factory Blueprint is all about taking our ideas through small experiments to identify what the customers are dealing with so that we can design intelligent solutions that will make a difference in their lives.
  3. Know your audience: Knowing your customer is the key. In Agile practices like Lean and LeanStartup, the goal is to listen to our customers and find out what they value and deliver that. We use tools like Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas and Traction Metrics to create and measure unique value proposition and create “happy customers.” Ash says, it is not about customers being happy, it is about what will make them happy. It is about who are our customers are and how well their lives are enhanced after using our product.
  4. Move the crowd: Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, is famous for his company providing the “wow” experience for their customers. Happy customers create more profit for the company. Companies go out of their way to please their customers. Word of mouth referrals by satisfied customers go a long way. Customer delight has become of the key Agile values. In addition, Agile also cares about happy engaged employees. Tony has also said, “Business often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.”

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