Leadership has to constantly push the transformation forward and remind the company why this is happening. “Even if you are a 10-person company, you need to have somebody in the organization who is saying, ‘Hey guys, we need to do this right, not just easy,’ and you have to constantly be pushing that forward,” said Ryan Polk, vice president of engineering at Rally.
He explained that the word “agile” has been thrown around companies a lot lately, but more than a word, it is a discipline, and those working to be agile have to actually understand the benefits. “When I first started doing agile, some of the early books said you can take any team, convert them to agile and get a 4x improvement out of them,” he said.
“It is funny because consultants stopped saying this because it’s too hard. You have to understand how to get product out, you have to understand where you are going with your product, and you have to understand the work that is in progress. All of these things take a lot of discipline to do, and that is how you get that 4x. The 4x is obtainable; it just takes some dedication.”
People think of agile as a way to be faster, but not as a way to be better, according to QASymphony’s Dunne. “Organizations are just throwing the tenets and principles of agile out the window and saying agile is one thing. It is just about having faster iterations, faster cycles and faster releases, and it really isn’t. It is about freeing people up from waterfall’s very rigid process so they can focus more on actually delivering value to the end users.”
Part of the problem is that people don’t really understand what agile is, or what kind of agile they are doing. When people describe what agile is, a lot of times they describe Scrum, which is not the only way of doing agile, according to Brown.
“I do this all the time where I will say agile when I mean Scrum, and I will say Scrum when I mean agile,” he said. “It is something that people in our industry really need to be aware of. We are confusing the heck out of new people by using the wrong term.”
It is human nature to look for the easiest route, which is why people often fail when trying to transition to agile, according to Rally’s Polk.
“Human behavior is one that tends to gravitate toward the easiest practices, not the best practices,” he said. “Agile is a set of hard practices. They actually take discipline. They take understanding how your teams are working and evolving.”
During a transition, organizations need to understand that they will fail, but that failure will help them to be better in the long term. “From a culture perspective, you really have to shift to a culture where it is okay to have some failures as long as you are learning from the failures and not duplicating your mistakes,” said Dunne.