Following the Christmas holidays, like many people at this time of year I’ve just booked my summer vacation; a fortnight of relaxation in the Lanzarote sun in August. I can’t wait. Whilst the majority of the break will be spent chilling by the pool, we’ll be sure to do the usual touristy things – engage in the cultural experiences, visit geological sights of interest, eat local cuisine, take photos etc. The essence of the vacation is immortalised in the words of Chief Seattle, “take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints”.
We all like to be tourists, safe in the knowledge that we can try something new, returning to the comfort of what we know in just a few weeks.
For some organisations, their first dabble with agile is a little bit like the tourist’s experience. Everyone is dazzled by the brochure and its promises of Shangri-La… ‘Do agile and you’ll deliver twice as much with half the effort’ – who wouldn’t like to take their team to that destination. So, the team book their journey and for a while there’s genuine excitement. The water cooler talk is all about working in an agile way – whatever that means.
The big day arrives and the team embarks on its agile journey. On arrival at ‘Las Resort D’agile’ the team is invited to the orientation ceremony. Time to drink the cool aid and hear about all the facilities the resort has to offer. One week sprints… WOW! Collective team ownership… double WOW! A prioritised backlog… OMG!
For the duration of the agile vacation most of the team embrace all that the resort has to offer. They go through a couple of sprints and build their first couple of increments. Most of the team agree it’s refreshing to do things the right way; “Wouldn’t it be great to work like this all the time?” they say. “Developing at a sustainable pace with constant feedback, this is Shangri-La!”
Unfortunately, the flight is booked for the ‘home journey’, to join their colleagues working in different departments. Like landing in Heathrow, it’s time to form an orderly queue, get the passport out and fit in with the mind numbingly tedious bureaucracy. Soon the team is overwhelmed with demands for Gantt charts and document sign offs. It feels like the rest of the organisation just doesn’t get it. They must be agile xenophobes!
After a couple of changes to team personnel, no one seems to remember the difference between a five and an eight pointer. The developers seem to be losing the plot, suggesting that breaking down stories is just a waste of time – if only they would be left alone to get on with the coding. They know what they need to do.
Sprints go by without a working increment. Las Resort D’agile seems like a distant memory…
The moral of the agile tourist story
Unfortunately, the ‘take nothing but memories’ approach by Chief Seattle doesn’t cut it when trying to transform to an agile way of working; an agile ‘vacation’ is not sufficient! In order to be successful, think about the journey not as a vacation, but more of a migration to a new culture.
When you’re looking to transform to agile ways of working, it can be useful to consider using some common change management techniques:
- Establish a need for change (risk of falling behind the competition, for example)
- Identify the desired outcomes
- Establish a community passionate about the change
- Allow some debate and discussion about the solution where the outcome is genuinely not pre-determined, so people feel part of it
Use a coach to remove barriers and help generate quick wins