There are organizations which think that Agile or Scrum can be the solution to solve all IT problems that they have. Senior management has decided that their whole organization has to become agile. To realize that they demand that all existing (waterfall) processes will be replaced by Agile processes. Even if they succeed to do that (which is often not the case) they are usually not getting the expected business benefits out of Agile. Replacing processes doesn’t make an organization Agile.
Teams own their process
Agile teams are self-organized. They are capable to plan and track the work that they need to do. Team members are professionals who know how to do their work and how to improve their way of working with retrospectives. An Agile teams doesn’t like it when processes are imposed on them. It reflects a command and control style which is not effective.
In stead of imposing processes on teams, managers should work on the conditions for teams to define and improve their own processes. Some of the things that managers can do are:
- Remove detailed processes (or allow teams to remove them).
- Arrange training for team members to develop the skills that they need.
- Expect teams to work in a sustainable pace (and don’t put pressure them)
- Address impediments in the organizations that are raised by teams.
Managers should support teams in improving their way of working, for instance by:
- Allowing professionals to take time for improvements.
- Enable teams to self-assess how agile they are.
- Arrange agile coaching and mentoring for teams.
- Train and stimulating professionals in giving and receiving feedback.
- Ask teams to do retrospectives and support them doing improvement actions.
- Train retrospective facilitators to get more value out of agile retrospectives.
- Arrange opportunities for teams to learn from each other.
- Reward teams and professionals for improving their way of working.
Deploying Agile process frameworks
Taking an Agile view on your processes can still be valuable for your organization. Discussing agile values and principles helps professionals to explore and agree on how they want to work together and to become better and deliver valuable products to customers.
Agile frameworks like Scrum, XP, Crystal, and EVO are representations based upon the values and principles of the agile manifesto. I consider them to be similar to frameworks and models as TQM, CMMI, People CMM and Lean: They are valuable “tools” in the hands of professionals who understand them and deploy them based upon the context and needs of people. To simply do those things which make sense, not what the framework tells them to do. With focus upon the resulst that are needed, and not the model itself.
Don’t kill your teams with Agile silver bullets
Some organizations consider Agile to be a silver bullet to solve all problems with IT. They replace the processes by an agile framework ones and demand that everybody works like that. If it was that easy, then by now all organizations should have become Agile as agile frameworks have there for more than 10 years.
It can help a lot when managers develop a realistic view of what agile really is, and what they can expect to get out of it when they start their agile journey. Too often there’s the idea that agile can solve all problems, is something that is easy to do, that the team or the engineering department can do themselves (it’s self-organizing) and that it is just a matter of replacing existing processes by agile ones (For an example on this, take a look at can you use a Scrum master by Bob Marshall). Don’t make a wrong start by only hiring people and assuming that that will solve all problems. Be aware that as managers you also need to put in time to make agile successful.
Becoming Agile takes time. It starts with understanding the values and principles. And use that to deploy agile models and framework in such a way that it helps your teams to do their work and become better in what they do. Becoming agile is hard work, but when you start getting the rewards (which can be quickly) you know why it’s worth doing it.
(This post was published March 28 2014 and extended April 16 2014 with inspiration from a blog post by Bob Marshall).