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Posts tagged ‘transition’

Agile for managers – Challenges, operation, and impact on leaders

After giving this introduction training to over a hundred people managers, I have decided to make the presentation material available to the general public in an attempt to help organizations successfully transition to Agile.

This presentation is introductory level as it introduces some of the most common reasons why organizations choose to adopt Agile approaches. It presents some high level statistics on software development project success (and failure) to demonstrate why the traditional project management approach may not always be the best approach to successfully deliver projects.

The presentation introduces what Agile is (and isn’t) and the reasons justifying its adoption. Once the Agile concepts have been presented, the material introduces the Scrum approach by giving a walk through of a typical process.

The presentation ends with the main impacts on people managers within organizations who are adopting Agile.

I hope you will find the presentation useful to help you move your transition in the right direction. Feel free to circulate the material.

Clueless – 7 hints you’re probably not on the Agile track

Are you sure you want to be Agile?As an Agile coach and working for a consulting organization that specializes in Agile Software Development, I get to meet people who have decided to adopt or are thinking of adopting Agility within their organization.

I have to say, most people understand what an Agile transition means for them and their organization and are willing to make the changes required to make their transition a success.

And then, there are others who are most likely adopting Agile for the wrong reasons and as such, aren’t really interested or even aware of what it means for them.

I’ve put together a short list of 7 (real life!) conversations that made me wonder if common sense had left the building. Feel free to share your conversations…

Time estimates

  • Client: I don’t understand. Since we’ve adopted Agile, our developers consistently exceed the time estimates for their tasks.
  • Me: Interesting. Who provides the time estimates?
  • Client: The project manager…

Change Management

  • Client: We are really serious about implementing Agile within our organization.
  • Me: Great! You realize Agile is not a silver bullet that will magically eliminate all your issues?
  • Client: Of course, we are fully aware. We would like to start with a new project that is scheduled to start shortly.
  • Me: Good. Following our earlier conversation, you realize you will have to make changes to the way your team is currently working and that might impact their productivity in the short term.
  • Client: We can’t impact the team’s productivity. The project budget, scope and time lines have already been defined and the project is already 2 months behind schedule…

Trust

  • Client: We have identified a list of issues that we need help with. Here’s the list. Can you help us?
  • Me: Possibly. Let me look at your list. Who came up with the items on this list?
  • Client: Me and my direct reports.
  • Me: Has the team been involved in putting this list of issues together?
  • Client: Absolutely not. We asked them to put together a list of issues they were facing and most of the items were related to lack of trust, micro-management, and bad communication so we threw out their list and put this one together for them…

Retrospection

  • Client: We are just about to begin a new iteration but our last iteration was a disaster. We missed our time lines, the product owner is upset at the development team and morale is very low.
  • Me: Have you done a retrospection at the end of your iteration?
  • Client: No. We need to start development on the new project immediately.
  • Me: Wouldn’t there we be value in evaluating what went wrong in order not the repeat the same mistakes?
  • Client: We don’t have time for that and quite honestly, we don’t want the team’s morale to get worst once they realize how bad the situation is…

Management Support

  • Client: This Agile thing is great! I’m going to impress the management team with our success.
  • Me: How so?
  • Client: The development team asked me if they could use Agile for their next project and from what I read, Agile can help them improve their performance and reduce the time to market.
  • Me: Yes, if it’s done right you may get those benefits.
  • Client: Wonderful! After I gave them the go ahead to start immediately, I told them I now expected to project to be delivered in 9 months (instead of 18 months) and cut their budget by half…

Collaboration

  • Client: Agile has done good things for our development team but we keep facing issues with project members that don’t report into our department.
  • Me: Who are those external contributors?
  • Client: The architects and the DBAs.
  • Me: Do you keep them informed of your project progress? Do they get involved in defining the stories? Do they estimate their work?
  • Client: Hell, no. We simply assign them the work they need to do and complain to their boss if they fall behind…

Scrum Master

  • Client: I don’t understand why things aren’t working well.
  • Me: What is the issue?
  • Client: We took the Certified Scrum Master training you offer, we read a few books, and we’ve started implementing Scrum but nothing seems to be working.
  • Me: What do you mean?
  • Client: The only thing we didn’t do is take a natural leader to be the Scrum Master. Robert was available so we asked him to be the Scrum Master.
  • Me: Who is Robert?
  • Client: Robert has been with the company for 22 years. He’s one of the few Mainframe project managers who preferred not to learn the new web technologies and since he didn’t have any assignments, we thought he could do the job…

Do you have any hints you would like to share?

6 ways to know if you are working for an archaic organization

For years you have been hearing that you work for a leading-world-class organization but somehow that statement doesn’t resonate with you. How can you tell if you are truly working for an innovative and caring organization? Find out if the slogan “Our people are our #1 asset” is meaningless in your organization by looking at the 6 ways to know if you are working for an archaic organization.

1. Do you work for a democracy?

Does your organization believe the authoritarian power of a single ruler is better than collective intelligence?

Many have demonstrated that collective intelligence delivers better results than relying on the knowledge of a few (The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations).

As imperfect as it is, we trust democracy to select the people who will lead our countries, vote laws, decide to go to war (or not), and determine taxation level – among other things. When it comes to business, organizations typically prefer to give complete authority to a single person who will ultimately decide what is good (or not) for the organization.

Why can’t organizations adopt a more decentralized management approach?

2. Is your organization at war with its competitors?

Does your organization think of competitors as enemies and use war related terms and strategies in an attempt to eliminate them?

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual has a great chapter on the analogy between business and war and the attitude your organization has towards competition is a good indication of how innovative it is.

Has your organization ever thought of cooperating with competition to increase the overall size of the market instead of competing for portions of a smaller market?

3. Does your organization force its employee to follow rigid rules to get things done?

Does your organization believe access to resources should follow a well defined sequential process with gatekeepers along the way?

Remember the days of video cassettes? To access a specific scene in the movie, you would need to forward to it forcing you to painfully have to watch all the content before getting to your end goal. Then came the DVD where you can now jump directly to the scene of your choice without having to follow the defined sequence.

Many organizations are still like old video cassettes and have implemented structure, rules, and processes to control access to resources and decision making authority. They are controlling their operations. By comparison, look at organizations that empower their employees to make the best decisions and allow them to get to their end goal as fast as possible.

Which model do you think will allow the organization to prosper?

4. Are fortresses built within your organization?

Does your organization allow people to build a fortress around them to reduce threats from other employees?

Closed offices and controlling assistants are obvious ways to protect against other people. In some cases, managers are clever and typically hire weak employees so they are not threatened in their role. Others are trained politicians who have learned to look good in front of senior management but are bullying their colleagues and employees.

Shouldn’t organizations ensure that the leaders are confident individuals who are not afraid to take risks and sometimes fail in order to move the organization in the right direction?

5. Is slavery still permitted when it comes to resource management?

Does your organizations assign resources to projects and departments as if they were disposable resources?

In the information age, people are required in order to deliver value-added knowledge. Unfortunately, many organizations still dispatch individuals as if they were lifeless (and emotionless) objects to projects that are doomed from the start. There are some beliefs that with the proper pressures, people can work endless hours to make up for un-realistic deadlines and still deliver quality outputs.

Why not threat individuals as competent and knowledgeable contributors to the success of their assignement instead of believing they should simply execute order to achieve the required goal?

6. Are employees threated as if they were back in grad school?

Does your organizations believe it is fair to receive performance evaluation by a single individual?

Many organizations still rely on the manager to obtain feedback and communicate it to employees. Unfortunately, many people have not been trained to seek proper feedback let alone communicating it. Some organizations have started to implement 360 degrees feedback and as such the content is much more helpful to the individuals.

Why not gather feedback from various sources and have a trained communicator provide the feedback to the employees so they can actually learn and improve based on the information provided?

In conclusion

There are many ways to lead an organization. Not challenging some of the existing practices is the best way for an organization to have the same faith as the dinosaurs…