The success of an Agile transformation stems from three key areas: behaviors driven by an Agile mindset at all levels of an organization, adherence to frameworks, and a relentless pursuit to deliver value to the customer.
One of the more nuanced tactics I use to
drive rapid, incremental delivery of value to customers is called vertical
Think of a development project like a tiramisu.
Each vertical slice of tiramisu contains many decadent layers of flavors and varying
textures. Each portion is delicious because the combination of layers is better
than eating one layer at a time. To do so would reduce the value of the culinary
Similarly, a large item on your
product backlog can be sliced up into smaller pieces either horizontally (that
is, so the work only relates to a single architectural layer) or vertically (so
the work spans multiple architectural components).
Detailed schedules and beautiful Gantt charts might stop the screaming for visibility into your project, but they won’t help you sleep at night. In the back of your head, you’re waiting for the binky to fall out—for the project timeline to slip—and everyone starts crying again. Here’s how to break the habit of leaning on these common IT project management crutches.
Almost 30 years ago, when my wife and I were proud and exhausted new parents, we found that pacifiers would help our newborn twins sleep. This strategy worked for a little while, but when a binky fell out of one of their mouths, they cried. One of us would get up, put it back in place, and enjoy a few more moments of rest until it fell out again. We always say that one of the things we would do differently as parents is to have not used pacifiers. The boys became dependent on them, and they only postponed the inevitable.
Binkies remind me of how IT teams often use detailed timelines
and project plans.
Have you participated in or led a digital transformation at your organization? Was it really a transformation, or was it perhaps just a series of initiatives that sounded nice, felt good, and checked a few boxes?
I’ve seen many executives who’ve tried in earnest to digitally transform their organization, but were forced to settle for a set of random projects that don’t truly qualify as transformative. I’ve also seen some well-meaning but misguided initiatives fall short of embodying an effective transformation.
Sorry to break it to you, but swapping an analog clock for a digital clock in the lobby does not qualify as a digital transformation.
Agile is about empowering teams and individuals. The roles defined by Agile are: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and team member. Not listed? Project sponsor.
That said, organizations often have established practices around designating a sponsor or two when a project or program is initiated. How do these two worlds meet? Should Agile teams have sponsors or not? Can a sponsor provide value to an Agile project?
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” is a famous quotation attributed to the late business management guru Peter Drucker. While a debate continues as to whether Mr. Drucker actually said it, the statement itself merits further exploration. I believe it means that any great strategy regardless of the depth of research, hard work, number of paid consultants, and even its own brilliance, will not achieve its intended future state if it fails to take an organization’s culture into consideration.
For part three in my Agile journey series, I will examine the importance of addressing cultural elements to achieve a successful Agile transformation. (more…)
The promise of Agile is speed to market for delivering incremental value to the customer, but why is the adoption of Agile in organizations so difficult and slow? As addressed in my recent blog post, “Are you Using, Doing, or Being Agile?” Agile adoption takes more than just checking boxes, but rather is a complex, multi-phase journey. And any unfamiliar journey requires the navigator to know the destination. Have you tried using GPS without entering an address? Understanding where you are headed is a key component of any successful endeavor. (more…)
An Agile transformation is a journey. A journey has many ups and downs, and an Agile journey is no different. Another way of thinking about this is how a company can reach Agile maturity. Just like playing an instrument or participating in a sport, practice makes perfect. However, that is not the full story.
Organizations tend to divide the same resources over multiple, simultaneous projects and still expect the same level of productivity as if each person were dedicated to just one project.
PMOs, project managers, and resource managers need to reexamine this practice of assigning the same person to two or more projects at once. A project with many or all resources allocated to multiple projects usually run late, creating a ripple effect on all other projects.
Change is HARD. As a matter of fact, I often say “technology is easy, but people are hard.” You can guess the reaction I get from technology-focused individuals when I make this statement. For an organization to grow, be successful, compete, and embrace technology and new processes, change is required.
There are many excuses given for why IT fails to focus on driving change in their organization and across the enterprise? Here are just a few:
- Change is not my job. I am here to deliver technology, not drive change in the enterprise.
- Change is opaque. People are not binary. They have feelings, opinions, and agendas. I do not know how to alter things like mindsets.
- Change is hard to quantify. I can’t tell if change is happening or if I’m making progress toward a desired end state.
Yes, change is hard and often overlooked by IT organizations. But it is required for technology and process adoption and therefore requires dedication in the form of a champion.
Change without a champion is likely to fail.
Rhode Island-based Amica Insurance provides auto, home and life insurance nationwide and employs more than 3,800 people in 44 offices across the U.S.
Amica was looking to upgrade its web and mobile applications. To reach its goal, the IT team established a digital program and decided to pilot an Agile SDLC framework for rapid and iterative delivery of customer value.
The Agile implementation worked for Amica because the organization from top to bottom accepted a bit of discomfort in the short-term to give the change effort a chance. Management agreed to support decisions made on the front line. Product owners, SMEs, and developers were game to try new approaches and grew professionally. In return, they achieved a level of productivity and speed they had not seen before. Here’s how we helped.