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By: Sandeep Agrawal

One Critical Factor Affecting all Your Agile Initiatives

A Seattle based million dollar company with more than two decades in the industry recently decided to revamp its delivery department with cutting edge tools and the much celebrated ERP software, which if successful will be implemented across the board. However, the employee response has not been enthusiastic. The mid-management is reluctant to move beyond emails and delivery heads are citing several reasons to delay the implementation.

Sounds familiar? Consider another one:

Alex has spent 15 years in a Fortune500 firm. He has worked on big enterprise projects and has led teams, ensuring deliveries on time and as per clients’ expectations. He has recently joined a new organization; but now he is facing issues implementing his favorite tools and processes for software project management. It has come to the management’s notice that their flagship project is heading nowhere as teams under him are underperforming. Some have complained that he is not the right person to lead them.

The above two stories point towards a common problem which science likes to call as Inertia – the middle age executives at Seattle HQ are afraid of the new software while Alex is unable to work with his old ways in his new organization.

Bringing any change into one’s Organizational Culture is perhaps the biggest challenge any company can undertake. This change becomes even more severe for software firms shifting from Waterfall to Agile. The situation is compounded with limited or wrong understanding of Agile and Scrum. There is a lot of noise; and there is no shortage of firms using Agile as a Marketing buzzword. Some even claim that Agile is dead. Amidst all this, finding the right strategy to successful Agile implementation becomes a big undertaking for any organization.

Yet again there are numerous examples of organizations successfully implementing and advocating Agile.

At Credencys, we have been fortunate enough to develop a clear and simple understanding of Scrum – which is a process that works for us pretty well. We are 100% Agile – even Marketing, Finance and HR teams use QuickScrum. Having said that, I think every organization implements Agile differently; and as long as it works, who cares if it’s 100% Agile or not.”

Sagar Sharma, CTO & Co-Founder, Credencys

So how do you take it forward? If you like Agile – you already have the answer.

Start Small

Before going across the board, start with a small project. Identify people who are more receptive to the ideas of Agile. Bring in Agile Coach or Scrum Masters to guide them. Also make sure that the project isn’t so small that nobody takes it seriously; nor should it be so critical that its failure affects your organization adversely.

Sell Bigtime

Start rewarding small successes in the project (e.g. completion of a sprint). This will start conversations, generating interest across your organization.

In Frank Underwood’s world this is a progress as more people would now be open to trying out the new approach.

Communication. Collaboration. Accountability.

The main issue in transitioning to Agile is people’s affinity to traditional waterfall approach under which teams work in silos (or isolated cubicles) with limited or no visibility into what’s happening ahead. Individuals accept accountability for only their own work. The lack of visibility and collaboration gives rise to incompatibilities and eventually an overall reduction in efficiency. People who have worked all their lives under this environment obviously find increased emphasis on communication, collaboration and shared accountability a bit perplexing.

Agile requires people to be accountable to not only their work but also to their team. Hence, you might allow people to sit in their old cubicles, but make them come together for a daily standup. These meetings will keep them updated about each other’s task progress, providing them a better overview of their project. As sprints progress, the members will have to start working on their team velocity (which you can incentivize) by functioning better as a team, looking after each other and working towards a goal. The sprint retrospective, will give you the best opportunity to assess the overall progress of your transition effort.

Increase Change Acceptance

Waterfall is known for its rigid Scope documents. And it gets worse with the Change Management Board. Clients and the change management rarely agree. The change management processes in waterfall make clients weary of giving feedbacks. On the other hand, the developers are also attuned to saying no to any changes. Agile on the other hand requires everyone to think beyond the scope and introduce any changes to meet end goals in a better way. The planning for requirements is dependent more on developers who should be encouraged to create their own tasks to meet requirements. This approach makes everyone a winner.

Get Everyone Involved

Agile is without hierarchy; and by definition everyone involved in making a shippable product, is part of the team. This means inclusion of analysts, quality assurance staff, delivery managers and DevOps. Hence, you need to ensure that the team is available for supporting the software till it is deployed and reaches stability. If you want Agile to be implemented successfully, development has to be aligned with deployment and production support functions.

Moving on, you may have to face challenges like choosing the correct Agile implementation for your firm – something we would answer in our next blog.

Conclusion

It is okay to start small, but you should plan to make it big. At times it will require you to get your hands dirty. You can take inspiration from Lenovo’s CEO, Yang Yuanqing, who wore a “Hello, my name is YY” card – encouraging his employees to call him by his name. He felt that this was essential for bringing a culture change to work with the west where open communication and equality is a norm. As highlighted throughout this article, getting your people ready for Agile is the major task, tools and processes will follow sooner or later.

Credencys Solutions Inc is a leading software development services and solutions provider which has helped numerous businesses in building strategies for their business growth. Subscribe to our blogs for getting similar articles on management, strategy, leadership and more.

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AGILE APPROACH.
EFFICIENT TEAM.
DELIVERING WOW.