Converting your development team, and perhaps even your entire organization, to agile practices involves something completely counter-intuitive: detailed, structured planning.
Most people think of that old Nike slogan when they decide to adopt agile practices: “Just do it.” Yet it’s that very idea that often leads to poor communication, frustration over a lack of wide buy-in, and, ultimately, failure of adoption.
“People misunderstand the depth and breadth of change required for transformation” to agile practices, said Tamara Sulaiman Runyon, a certified Scrum trainer and Project Management Professional at CollabNet. She has created something she calls the Agile Transformation Competency Framework to help organizations not merely “do” agile, but successfully transform their culture from awareness of agile to assimilation of those practices.
Before organizations decide to transform themselves into agile businesses, they must first define why they are doing it, based on measurable and observable metrics such as increased profitability or higher market share, she explained. “Agile for agile’s sake is not enough,” she said. “The reasons for transformation must be clear.”
Once the rationale is laid out, the framework advises that the organization establishes a baseline for where it is now: Are there pilot projects running? Have multiple teams adopted some agile practices? Interviewing team members will give the organization an idea of where to focus time and money to move along to transformation, said Sulaiman Runyon.
Her framework is meant to keep the road map to transformation visual and adaptable, in a way that is easy to evangelize throughout the organization. It is not, she said, a prescription for making the switch.
The next stage involves individuals exploring practices, perhaps launching a pilot team or two. There is little budget for training, no true collaborative process, and information remains in silos. These are what Sulaiman Runyon calls the awareness and willingness stages of adoption.
Next, business-value drivers are introduced as executive sponsorship begins. In-house expertise evolves, there is more training and coaching, and the small change to agile begins to ripple into other areas as the organization gets product management and senior management aligned with the new agile values. At this point, tools are selected, agile engineering practices are institutionalized, metrics are standardized, and reporting up to management is optimized. This is the adoption stage where the application of agile practices is put into place.
Finally, those agile values are acted upon, with visibility, transparency and trust for all. At this stage, agile is “the way we do things here,” what Sulaiman Runyon calls the adoption stage of assimilating people.
She cautioned that there is no set standard for how long a transformation can take. Organizations, she said, must adapt to what’s happening on the ground.
In a presentation with SD Times, Sulaiman Runyon explained the transformation framework in detail. If you’re one of those developers or managers working on a pilot team, and are unsure about how to take the next steps, this framework is invaluable, even if all this upfront planning, requirements gathering and strategizing seems counter-intuitive to what it means to be agile.
David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.