Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What is the Agile Mentality to Adopt Agile?

The agile way is customer-centric, purpose-driven, capability-based and talent-oriented.

Agile accelerates the flow; Agile harnesses the development of human beings to move from hierarchical thinking to collaborative, idea-driven thinking. These altitudes of thinking can be used to describe individuals, teams, programs, organizations, etc. Agile is like a journey you don’t know what challenges will come in your way. It’s unique so no one can prescribe it for you. If anyone claim to prescribe, it’s going to be an illusion. But still, there are agile principles & values, thoughts and practices you can follow and experiment, to put simply, but what is the agile way to adopt Agile?

An Agile transformation requires attention to all four "quadrants" of thinking -internal (Inside-out), external (outside-in) lenses, for both individual and collective angles... workshops, creation of roles, training, backlogs, charters, practices... all relate to the "external" lens of both the individual and collective ("doing Agile") The "internal" ("being Agile") lenses of both are more often get ignored... and missing the collective interior lens ignores some of the biggest obstacles to transformation, such as enterprise policies, HR, organizational structures, economic systems (budgets), and people feedback loops (such as objective based management), among others.

Advocate an integral approach to any transformation effort. Learn the agile principles, values, and mindset so that you can start becoming effective and making the best out of the ceremonies. It's worth having a think about why you want to adopt an agile approach and how you will measure your success. For example, if you want to be agile so that you can more quickly respond to change, then have a think about how you will measure that capability. A lot depends on how much buy-in you have from the senior executive of your organization. If the agile transformation is being driven from the technical team you could, for example, start by making engineering changes. Then progress to making changes requires more cooperation from the rest of the organization (like using a Product Owner, doing release planning, etc.). You can't just take your team agile without engaging the rest of the organization. However, in the case where someone is proceeding at a grass roots level,  it's valuable to consider how to guide them to the greatest likelihood of success, while also considering the whole organism.This is particularly important when it comes to selling the agile transformation to the rest of the organization. Give them a good argument for why you are doing it and what the benefits will be.

Cultivate a performance-based mindset: Start with an inception/kick-off to get everyone on the same page, both in terms of concepts and practices. The transformation effort has to begin not at implementing Agile practices but to transition the people to a performance-based mindset. Only then can you begin to frame Agile from a metrics, performance perspective... allowing new ways of working to be understood. That inception should include some of the training/workshops, with lots of hands-on /interactive work that is focused on your team's actual project. During the inception, craft your project charter, team charter/working agreements, Definition of Ready, Definition of Done, and other key artifacts/agreements. Plan out your first release and iteration.

Finally, decide on what your initial set of practices will be, as part of your team chartering. Don't go overboard. There will be time to add more in. Overloading will create frustration and delays. *Study*, *practice*, fail sometimes but fail-safe (check the length of your steps), all in all, build it day by day, by improving here, simplifying there, rethinking there, and so on.Also worth doing some background reading on the various agile frameworks (Scrum, Kanban, XP, etc.). Have a think about which seems best suited to your particular setup. Keep the team engaged and interested, if you leave them alone, they will revert back to old habits. Bad habits do not die, they get replaced with good habits (somebody said).

The agile way is about adopting both strategic thinkings to focus on business purpose and customer value; and systems thinking for capability measurement, cross-functional communication and collaboration, robust processes, incremental improvement and more.


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