Follow up: On Transitioning to Agile

This is a reposting of a discussion from scrum development. I feel this is worth repeating and archiving here.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/scrumdevelopment/message/8209

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relevant snippet: "There is no difference between a team transitioning to Agile and a team that "is Agile". At what point exactly, in your thinking, does a team or organization stop transitioning to Agile and become truly Agile? Define "truly Agile" in a way that is universally acceptable. You cannot. That is why I say teams and organizations fall somewhere on a spectrum of Agility. Thing is, there is no defined endpoints along this spectrum. Yes, those of us scrummers would like to see organizations toward the agile end of the spectrum, but at what point can we objectively say XYZ team has reached an acceptable level of Agility? (Take a look at Esther Derby's blog too, no link handy, she also has some writing on this topic).

It's growing tiresome hearing people with a very narrow range of practical experience make these sweeping generalizations about how a "truly Agile" team should be, often using absolute criteria. I get the feeling some people, including myself at one point in time, had an idealistic set of conditions produce uncanny results: the team was both highly motivated and intelligent, the customer was responsive, accessible, and knowledgeable. Agile is about principles, about empirical process, common sense, not defined absolutes.

But what if the conditions aren't so ideal? What if the team is totally unmotivated and firing isn't an option? What if the business organization was in shambles with no real source of solid requirements? Let me provide an example: an organization with union workers that cannot be removed, that are largely unmotivated, and resist change. Can we take steps toward increasing the frequency and quality of software delivery? Can we try to motivate workers by bringing in high-energy, talented staff? Can we root our the matrix org structure and set up cross-functional teams? In most cases, we can do something to improve the situation... but we'll probably never hit 100% truly Agile according to some idealistic criteria IN THIS CASE. But in my book, that's better than nothing."

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Victor Szalvay

Victor Szalvay currently leads product development for CollabNet’s ScrumWorks® product suite. In that capacity, he works closely with customers, stakeholders, and the development teams to deliver high business value each release cycle. With more than 150,000 active users worldwide, ScrumWorks is used by more than half of the Fortune 100 and boasts the largest market share of any Agile management tool.

Posted in Agile
One comment on “Follow up: On Transitioning to Agile
  1. Bob Evans says:

    “What if the team is totally unmotivated and firing isn’t an option?” “Let me provide an example: an organization with union workers that cannot be removed, that are largely unmotivated, and resist change.”
    This sounds like the first Agile project is to create an atmosphere where the workers are energized, then start the project that management wants accomplished.
    First please take into consideration why the workers are unmotivated.
    Several questions to ask are:
    – Is there a history of worker abuse in the company?
    – Has the union so insulated the workers from any responsibility that they feel like they have no say in the company, or in their jobs?
    – Have company culture and policies insulated the workers?
    – Do company officials preach empowerment, only to dictate the terms of work and set strict rules around employee interaction?
    The first agile project needs to attack change that is meaningful to the situation. However if you see a stifling environment, you best present those findings to management along with suggested courses of action for which you will need executive backing, and support with full authority to effect the changes.
    Be prepared for a shorter-than-you-would-like project contract as a result. But better that than having your efforts run the gamut from no support to outright sabotage from either side. It is your reputation that is at stake, not just the contract

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