A Tale of Two Transformations: Bringing Lean and Agile Software Development to Life
As you begin or work to sustain a change initiative, do the math on the money, and communicate it explicitly to those who need to understand and approve i.
That's probably true to some extent: they may not possess necessary competence. Give them a chance! Make it clear that change is expected, expose them to opportunities to learn, give them support to implement new ideas. The business knowledge and relationships in the existing team are invaluable, if they can be harnessed to power your change. The parable format allows bringing in the human elements the fears, the egos and the greed and makes the story all the more interesting and realistic.
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The organizations that need to undergo change are quite different from each other. One organization's MCCA operation and product development were chaotic and depended entirely on the heroics of a few dedicated individuals. It didn't have a product strategy and road map in place. Sales team bonus was linked to the sales contracts closed and hence contract closure even at a loss to the organization was an usual practice. Since there was no product road map in place and what a client wanted determined the product strategy, the operations and development team were at the receiving end of this practice of sales team.
MCCA's challenge was to standardize and improve the operations and make reliable the product development with the help of a long term strategy and a road map. The second company FinServia was a newly independent division of a much larger company. And the few customers who still remained did so to avoid switching costs.
The company had made the mistake of outsourcing technology work to a vendor. The vendor had implemented a waterfall based process. Hence software development and operations suffered from too much of process that was highly regimented, slow to change, late to market and very behind the competition.
All this was kind of acceptable when the company was a part of a larger organization.
A Tale of Two Transformations: Bringing Lean and Agile Software Development to Life
FinServia's challeng was to loosen the grip of bureaucracy and waterfall process and accelerate and make reliable its product development. The table below shows the current status of the organizations. Current Performance. Large companies typically launch change programs as massive efforts. But the most successful introductions of agile usually start small. They often begin in IT, where software developers are likely to be familiar with the principles. Then agile might spread to another function, with the original practitioners acting as coaches.
Each success seems to create a group of passionate evangelists who can hardly wait to tell others in the organization how well agile works. The adoption and expansion of agile at John Deere, the farm equipment company, provides an example. Gradually, over several years, software development units in other parts of Deere began using them as well.
Jason Brantley, the unit head, was concerned that traditional project management techniques were slowing innovation, and the two men decided to see whether agile could speed things up. Tome invited two other unit managers to agile training classes. But all the terminology and examples came from software, and to one of the managers, who had no software background, they sounded like gibberish. Tome realized that others would react the same way, so he tracked down an agile coach who knew how to work with people without a software background. Hundreds of Deere employees joined the discussion group.
Team engagement and happiness in the unit quickly shot from the bottom third of companywide scores to the top third. Quality improved. Success like this attracts attention. Today, according to Tome, in almost every area at John Deere someone is either starting to use agile or thinking about how it could be used. Japanese martial arts students, especially those studying aikido, often learn a process called shu-ha-ri. In the shu state they study proven disciplines.
Eventually they advance to ri, where they have so thoroughly absorbed the laws and principles that they are free to improvise as they choose. Mastering agile innovation is similar. Before beginning to modify or customize agile, a person or team will benefit from practicing the widely used methodologies that have delivered success in thousands of companies. Over time, experienced practitioners should be permitted to customize agile practices. For example, one principle holds that teams should keep their progress and impediments constantly visible. Many teams are still devoted to this practice and enjoy having nonmembers visit their team rooms to view and discuss progress.
But others are turning to software programs and computer screens to minimize input time and allow the information to be shared simultaneously in multiple locations.
A key principle guides this type of improvisation: If a team wants to modify particular practices, it should experiment and track the results to make sure that the changes are improving rather than reducing customer satisfaction, work velocity, and team morale. Spotify, the music-streaming company, exemplifies an experienced adapter.
Founded in , the company was agile from birth, and its entire business model, from product development to marketing and general management, is geared to deliver better customer experiences through agile innovation. But senior leaders no longer dictate specific practices; on the contrary, they encourage experimentation and flexibility as long as changes are consistent with agile principles and can be shown to improve outcomes. Nor do they always measure velocity, keep progress reports, or employ the same techniques for estimating the time required for a given task.
These squads have tested their modifications and found that they improve results. Some C-suite activities are not suited to agile methodologies. Routine and predictable tasks—such as performance assessments, press interviews, and visits to plants, customers, and suppliers—fall into this category.
But many, and arguably the most important, are.
They include strategy development and resource allocation, cultivating breakthrough innovations, and improving organizational collaboration. Senior executives who come together as an agile team and learn to apply the discipline to these activities achieve far-reaching benefits. Their own productivity and morale improve.
They speak the language of the teams they are empowering. They experience common challenges and learn how to overcome them. They recognize and stop behaviors that impede agile teams. They learn to simplify and focus work. Results improve, increasing confidence and engagement throughout the organization. These teams rank-order enterprisewide portfolio backlogs, establish and coordinate agile teams elsewhere in the organization to address the highest priorities, and systematically eliminate barriers to their success.
Here are three examples of C-suites that took up agile:. Systematic, a employee software company, began applying agile methodologies in So in Holm decided to run his nine-member executive group as an agile team. The team reprioritized management activities, eliminating more than half of recurring reports and converting others to real-time systems while increasing attention to business-critical items such as sales proposals and customer satisfaction.
The group started by meeting every Monday for an hour or two but found the pace of decision making too slow. So it began having daily minute stand-ups at am to discuss what members had done the day before, what they would do that day, and where they needed help. More recently the senior team began to use physical boards to track its own actions and the improvements coming from the business units. Other functions, including HR, legal, finance, and sales, now operate in much the same way.
Surak is the initiative owner, and an engineering executive is the scrum master. Together they have prioritized backlog items for the executive team to address, including simplifying the administrative process that teams follow to acquire hardware and solving knotty pricing issues for products requiring input from multiple GE businesses. ScrumLab Open: For training presentations, videos, webinars, and published papers.
Annual State of Agile Survey: For key statistics such as usage rates, customer benefits, barriers to adoption and success, and specific practices used. The scrum team members run two-week sprints and conduct stand-up meetings three times a week. They chart their progress on a board in an open conference room where any employee can see it. Here are three of the most popular forms and the contexts in which each works best.
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The fundamentals of scrum are relatively simple. To tackle an opportunity, the organization forms and empowers a small team, usually three to nine people, most of whom are assigned full-time. The team is cross-functional and includes all the skills necessary to complete its tasks. It manages itself and is strictly accountable for every aspect of the work. The person in this role usually comes from a business function and divides his or her time between working with the team and coordinating with key stakeholders: customers, senior executives, and business managers.
Then he or she continually and ruthlessly rank-orders that list according to the latest estimates of value to internal or external customers and to the company. A process facilitator often a trained scrum master guides the process.