“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” said Alice
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6
With a successful agile pilot under our belt, we were ready to scale up our transition. But where do we start?
One company I had been involved with tried to do it by combining the transition effort with a big, hairy product deliverable – a refresh of our technology platform. They brought in an external development shop who were very well versed in Agile. The plan was for them to lead the technology platform refresh and in the process provide agile training and mentorship to our development staff. Looked great on paper but the transition never happened!
As the product deliverables fell further and further behind schedule, any thought of agile training went out the window and it was all hands on deck to get the deliverables done under a very “command & control” environment. Not only were we no further along on our agile transition, an intense animosity developed between internal and external development shops as they jockeyed for control.
Seeking advice and having heard testimonials from other organizations that had successully undergone transitions, a common critical success factor emerged: ‘Get a good dedicated, external Agile coach for as long as you can’.
A good external Agile coach:
- Ensures adoption of an agile methodology that is customized for your organzation and culture. There are many different flavours and nuances of Agile. What works fabulously in one company will fail miserabily in another so it’s important that an experienced Agile coach be leveraged to right-fit the methodology.
- Comes with no political capital. With any type of change, objectivity and the need to do the right thing can often wilt in the face of reporting lines and personal aspirations. An ‘external’ coach only has one aspiration – to ensure a successful transition so honesty at any level won’t be a problem.
- Will work diligently to work themselves out of a job. Having worked with many consultants in the past, the one striking difference with the Agile consultants that I ended up using was their sincerity in weaning us off of them as soon as possible. Their goal for us was self-sufficiency not habit-forming dependency. We learned how to fish.
After review and due diligence, we engaged with an excellent agile consultancy. One that had expertise not only with the ‘soft’ people collaboration practices but also with the ‘hard’ engineering practices. They started with a baseline assessment of the organization and corporate culture that included an understanding of our underlying business challenges. We ended up adopting an agile methodology known as OpenAgile.
First step on our transition roadmap was the selection and launch of an internal Agile Lean Transformation Team. This team was made up of key stakeholders with influence that were passionate about championing the transition. This team was more than a steering committee. It was a team of doers who practiced servant leadership volunteering for tasks to clear obstacles and carrying out the work in agile fashion. In effect, leading by example.
Next step on the roadmap was to provide basic Agile teamwork training to staff across the organization that contributed to the value stream for product development and delivery. This included Product Managers, Business Analysts, Project Managers, Developers, Testers, SysAdmins, DBAs, Tech Support and IT management. There were great insights gained from this training. For many, the engaging simulations that made up the training was a preview of the behaviour change that they would all need to undergo. Moving from the comfort of waterfall cubicles and email communications to the brave new world of open team spaces and face-to-face collaboration.
Having completed basic training and the selection of several cross-functional and co-located agile teams, our Agile boot camp finished with a formal 2-day launch of each of the teams facilitated by the Agile coaches with the following outcomes:
- Agile team rules and processes
- Prioritized Value Drivers in User Story format
- Physical and electronic environment readiness
To add some fun to the launch, the teams were asked to do self portraits…
Having completed boot camp and armed with new found tools, the real work was about to begin.