For those of you going through Agile Transformations, or about to, one of the many things you’ll need to deal with is the complete panic you feel from leaving the old ways behind. Admittedly, everyone knows that things are broken or could be done better, but what’s been used for so long is at least “comfortable” when compared to the unknown. I liken it to the scene where Indiana Jones steps of the side off the canyon trusting that there was something there to catch him. To put it another way – you know those times when you almost fall off a barstool but manage to catch yourself? Yeah, it’s like that. For months.
With Agile there’s no hiding. Every day you’re expected to deliver some sort of value, something back to the team. If you’re not doing that on a daily basis you’re letting the team down. Others start to notice when someone isn’t doing a damn thing. That’s un-nerving for people accustomed to having 9 months before the project gets implemented. The bulk of the work completed in the last 1-2 months with a series of all-nighters. In reality, since you’re getting closer to the deadline, the least critical items of the project should be underway, not the most critical. The highest priority items should be done by now.
Adopting Agile, whether it’s Scrum, Kanban, XP, whatever, is going to expose every flaw in your organization’s ability to consistently and predictably deliver a working product. The product and dev teams will feel more scrutiny and the management team will begin to realize that there’s a rather large gap between what they want to accomplish and what the organization is currently capable of. Everybody is going to be pissed. And that’s why this is cathartic – you begin to understand that executing a waterfall project is “working harder” and an Agile project is “working smarter.” The management teams also begin to understand that telling the teams what day a project is due is not a prescription for enabling them to actually hit that date.
My wife, @IamAgile, and I have discussed this numerous times. Give the adoption one year. Follow the Agile principles exactly, don’t try to adjust them to the organization before you fully understand them. After you’ve made it through a full year, then try to tinker with them. She’s been leading Agile for more than three years and recently had a development team want to cut out the Morning Standups in favor of meeting 2-3 times a week. After the first week they realized that they had not idea what each other was doing and they were in complete disarray. The daily Morning Standups went back in place immediately. Only after you’ve lived the discipline for a while to you really begin to understand when you’re going off course with changes to the process. Stick with it for a single year, get through the pain. Because on the other side is a very disciplined, predictable, reliable organization.