Now You’re Agile: Stop Sucking at Sponsorship

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?

(more…)

Read More

5 Ways to Gain Your Team’s Trust as a Scrum Master

Trust is the grease that keeps a team running smoothly. One of the most effective and low-cost ways to improve the delivery, performance, and morale is to gain the team’s trust. As a Scrum Master, it’s your responsibility to build trust with your team. A team that trusts their Scrum Master has an advantage over others. Broadly speaking, teams perform better when they feel they’re in good hands.

Scrum Masters can seem like outsiders, as you tend to interact with the team, not with their work. The dynamic is exacerbated during Agile transformations: Scrum Masters who are brought in to work with a team that is used to a waterfall approach can struggle to gain the team’s trust.

Here are 5 ways to connect with your team, and demonstrate that you are here to help and support them:

(more…)

Read More
iterative approach fixed budgets

An Iterative Approach in the Age of Fixed Budgets

The Agile methodology has been widely accepted and implemented in many organizations for various goals. Most use Agile for project execution and product development. We even advocate using an Agile-based iterative engagement model for vendor management to minimize the risk of getting locked into long, inflexible contracts, and to prioritize outcomes over arbitrary task lists.

Many executives still think an Agile methodology would never work in their organization. Some have even attempted to implement Agile and were not happy with the results. Agile flops tend to fall into one of two categories: The organization either did not implement the actual Agile methodology, or was not ready for it.

(more…)

Read More
sprint-vendor-management

Agile Sprints for Better Vendor Management

Agile is now being used far beyond its original purpose, which was software development. We see organizations apply Agile methodology to any project or program where the end result is a continual work in progress.

Come to think of it, my son and I use an Agile approach when we go fishing. We know we want to catch a bunch of fish, but we don’t know what kind or where, so we move our canoe around the lake all day based on our success in each spot, wind direction, time of day, and other factors.

Abraic exercises an Agile approach for our internal innovation program. Our R&D group is working strictly on a high-frequency, trial-and-error basis in one-week sprints. This minimizes cost exposure and allows us to make adjustments based on the latest findings.

Another area where an Agile approach is very effective is vendor engagement. The predominant practice to date has been to take an ambitious high-level scope and hand it off to a chosen vendor by means of a complex, long, and expensive contract. Yet, there are many cases when the project requires a significant redirection, including changing the vendor, utilizing in-house resources, re-scoping the project, putting the effort on hold, and so on. We end up having a to make a tough choice: make minor tweaks and complete as planned even if it doesn’t match our expectations or try to renegotiate – a lengthy and painful endeavor that may involve legal and oftentimes damages relationships.

(more…)

Read More
Prix Fixe Menu

Organizational Culture Eats Agile for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner!

“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…)

Read More

Before Starting Any Agile Journey, Know Your Destination

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…)

Read More
agile adoption - changing shapes

How Amica Reshaped Its IT Processes: An Agile Adoption Case Study

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.

(more…)

Read More

Improving Delivery Through Empowerment: 4 Steps to Empower an Agile Team

Your company is moving to Agile from waterfall, and you want to ensure a smooth transformation that keeps projects healthy. As a scrum master working to transform a traditional waterfall SDLC process into an Agile one, I have learned a few pointers when navigating this transformation. An important concept to keep in mind during this transformation is empowerment.

One of Agile’s core tenets is the value of “individuals and interactions” over “processes and tools”. The idea is to foster a high-velocity decision making process, which hinges on open and honest communication in a co-located environment. However, implementing this change can be very difficult for team members who have previously worked on waterfall projects. You may find employees reluctant to volunteer for work, or hesitant to take on new challenges. Why is this so?

(more…)

Read More