Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Frictions to Adopt Agile as a Mindset

Agile is more a "direction," than an "end." Transforming to Agile culture means the business knows the direction they want to go on.
Agile is the mindset, the philosophy, and the methodology to not only manage software but to run today’s business. The point is how do you make culture transition from traditional setting to agile; and what types of frictions do you experience with Agile?

Agile is really a mindset. It doesn't matter how much Agile training you have had, or agile projects you have been on, if you don't just 'get it,' then you will always fail. Not having the right people with the right mindset in place is the very cause to fail Agile: the "Agile Mind" makes an effort and have a desire to continuously improve and be self-organizing and accountable, but Anti-Agile Mind" instead want to sabotage the change as they like the old way of doing things. SDLC mindset seems to default to use tools to solve problems. Agile turns to teams for problem-solving. Agile is more about how a team approaches solving problems and less about the tools used to support that approach. Anyone can use the tools, but how many teams working in Agile truly have eliminated the command-and-control style found in waterfall development? Agile is truly a mindset.

Culture inertia: The culture differences are by far the largest source of friction. Big Batch vs, Continuous Flow; Hierarchical management vs. Networked management; Command and Control vs. Self-Organization; Component-based Development vs. Feature teams; Managing the Product vs. Managing the Process; Training for Fixed Roles vs. Learning Organization. The successful organization will be the one that understands the difference between a project schedule and an Agile roadmap, osmotic communication and talking, and minimal documentation vs. maximum invisible documentation. Also metrics holds their place for sure, but too many metrics can defocus a team away from what truly matters. Deciding when to be more flexible and when to not back off. When it is between an important customer demo preparation and a retrospective. So finding that balance is difficult.

Partitioning and planning: One of the challenges commonly seen is difficulty breaking down work effectively for an iteration. Partitioning a project which is based on having an adequate big picture understanding - is a large part of up front, big picture planning. Needed up front planning also includes coming up with an understanding of business goals and - especially - how those business goals interrelate. And then decomposing the business goals into manual and automated processes that need to be created by or supported by specific Agile projects.

Cross-functional communication and collaboration: The interaction with outside groups seems to be full of friction. Probably, because roles are not well-defined and new ways of doing business are needed. It's important to get other departments outside the Agile team to give up control over dictating when features need to be done. There are ways to mitigate to reach an arrangement that fits the needs of both sides, but it first requires both sides to understand the other party's needs, and both sides must want to work towards an agreeable arrangement. Otherwise, there will be lots of internal conflicts.

Agile is more a "direction," than an "end." Transforming to Agile culture means the business knows the direction they want to go on, and as the people start “putting on” the agile mindset, discover new ways of working, collaborating, delivering value, they inspect and adapt in that journey by overcoming the frictions and challenges.


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