5 Questions to Ask Before Adopting Agile

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Tell me if this sounds familiar…

We have a mission critical project coming up and after putting together the requirements document we were told that the 2 years the project was going to take to complete is too long. But wait! I heard that Agile delivers projects in a much faster timeframe. All we have to do is change our process to something called Scrum; then we will get what we want in 6 months instead of 2 years!

Let’s do it!

Slow down…before we go invest stock in sticky notes, blue painters tape and index cards, there are a few questions we should consider to see if we are ready to embark on our Agile journey.

1) Do we have anyone internal to our organization now who has decent experience with Agile?

Yes, you can get training and coaching on Agile principles and frameworks, but a two-day training and a webinar isn’t going to sustain you long term. You have to make sure you have people internal to the organization that can feed and nourish it from the inside out. Different options include grooming internal coaches (takes time and patience), hiring someone on staff (longer term solution) or contracting external coaches for a period (shorter term solution generally).

But, either way, you need to make sure there are people on the ground after training that “get it” and have done this before. Otherwise you will have a whole lot of people who understand Agile just so-so, which is exactly the kind of results you will get.

2) Will our culture each our strategy for breakfast?

Yes…yes it will.

Get real with yourself about what the organizational culture is and whether or not it can adapt to such a new way of thinking about our work. Any organization can change its culture, but you should prepare yourself mentally for whether this is going to be an easy jog down “Transformation Lane” or a brutal battle of pushing the Agile boulder uphill against a driving cold wind…without shoes…blindfolded. Perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle. That’s fine as long as your strapped in and ready to weather the tough times when (not if) they come.

3) Do you have Executive support?

I know some Agile consulting organizations who won’t even accept a lucrative contract if it doesn’t include buy-in from the highest levels. They have learned the hard way that’s how important it is to have that kind of support. Eventually, something from question 2 above will require someone at the top to make a decision on how we approach an issue culturally. Culture trickles downhill whether it’s a good culture or bad one. If the people at the highest levels don’t understand (or want to) the nuances of working as an Agile organization, you will inevitably hit a ceiling of agility. More times than not, that ceiling was also a critical component to the success of that project you wanted faster.

4) Are we undergoing any major changes organizationally?

A common mistake I see is when a company (or more commonly a group within the company) decides to try Agile out when there is a major upheaval taking place. Whether it be a huge “re-org”, the company is getting bought or undergoing a major acquisition, or high level exec’s are cashing in on retirement soon, it’s best to wait out the storm and allow the dust to settle. If not, you could be positioning yourself for starting something you are not allowed to finish. You will find it slightly frustrating to try and get both support and budget to be doing Agile when you aren’t real sure who that support is long term, your entire culture could be changing soon or your project teams you’re attempting to keep cohesive in the name of Agile are all being disbanded.

5) How quickly do I expect us to be Agile?

I worked with one CIO for a major retail organization who kept telling everyone at the start of their Agile journey, “I expect we will be Agile by Sprint 6!” I was tempted to buy him a tee-shirt that had that exact phrase on the back. He looks back now and chuckles on that statement.

Becoming Agile is a marathon, not a “sprint” (ironically enough). It takes time, patience, endurance, training, coaching and continually feeding yourself (mentally) well. Be in it for the long haul if you’re going to do it at all. Teams and organizations go through many phases while attempting to get their feet underneath them gaining their own flavor of agility. Have patience and be willing to Try – Learn – Adapt your approach as you go. That’s the only way you will find what works for you, or your sweet spot. Then, once you’ve found it, be willing to change when\if it feels like it’s getting stale.

You can get great products into the hands of customers faster using an Agile approach; it’s been proven time and again. But understanding what exactly that means will help set expectations globally. Don’t go it alone. A good book and a couple of YouTube videos won’t give you what you need to be successful. Get a good understanding of where you are, where you want to go and surround yourself with the right people with the right skills to get you there.

And oh yeah, stock up on sticky notes and blue painters tape…

Comments

Ankit Tara
,
posted 2 years 49 weeks ago

The 5 questions to ask are in

The 5 questions to ask are in order: 1. Why? 2. Why? 3. Why? 4. Why? 5. Why? Until you get to the root objectives, you will have no way to achieve them.
Ankit Tara
,
posted 3 years 7 weeks ago

The first question should

The first question should be: 1) Are you reacting to unrealistic expectations? Agile will not fix a broken resource of time budget. Agile will ensure you get the best value solution within the time and resources available, but if your timescale or resources are inadequate you will still not deliver a minimum viable solution. If your stakeholder expects agile to reduce a 2 year development to 6 months, there's a good chance you're doomed to failure irrespective of the answers to the questions above.
Ankit Tara
,
posted 3 years 7 weeks ago

The 5 questions to ask are in

The 5 questions to ask are in order: 1. Why? 2. Why? 3. Why? 4. Why? 5 Why? Until you get to the root objectives, you will have no way to achieve them.

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