Trying to Become Agile? You Might Be Going About It All Wrong

Blog 20 - ACobarrubias

by Andro Cobarrubias, May 26, 2017

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” This is a quote from a character named Socrates in Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman.

Anybody who tries to perform the arduous task of transforming an organization – such as say from one steeped in Waterfall practices to Agile – would want to keep this quote in mind. It may be key to avoiding to some degree (never totally) the inevitable pain that comes with the transition.

The transition to Agile needs to include plans for Process, People and Culture.

Process

A process can be always be learned. There are coaches, training programs, books, YouTube videos and other sources for learning.  The key is not to subscribe to the notion that a proposed process needs to be adopted ad verbatim.

Adoption of a paradigm does not necessitate totally discarding what worked before. There are always overlaps, and those overlaps can be compatible – at least in principle, albeit execution is a bit different. So if the process of an independent QA group working with a PMO worked before, keep it to some degree. Testers are still allocated to Feature Teams but the standards, procedures, and methods used can be kept consistent. If an estimation process helped manage expectations better, keep it. Just remove the expectation that it will be kept in its original form.  Remember that Agile, by its very nature, does not espouse specific adoptions – there are different favors after all. Take what works.

People

The brutal fact is that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution, so either the person changes or you find an alternative.

People are set in their ways. Breaking patterns is anathema to human nature. Total rejection is a knee-jerk reaction, especially if working systems are proof of the process’ viability. But in cases were non-adoption is not an option, the wise thing to do is embrace inevitability. It is not a surrender but an acceptance of the need to adjust.

Such willingness must be done however in the context of adoption feasibility. Is what is being asked even possible in context of the paradigm being adopted

Can someone who has performed a specific role and trained to do so as a specialist adapt to perform multiple, previously unheard of tasks to the level of competency expected?

In terms of personal goals, is the change in role something the person wants to long term?

Culture

Process and people cannot function – however adaptive they are – if they cannot thrive within a company’s culture. “Culture trumps strategy” as the old Drucker saying goes, and for the most part, that is true. Without the firm commitment to align the organization’s values and principles with whatever pain change entails, initiatives will flounder and the organization will be in a state of perpetual resistance – never stabilizing, always fighting fires with never a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

After all that …

Making the transformation to Agile can be worthwhile in the right circumstances. But it must be understood that Agile transformation is more of a cultural transition than a procedural transition.

Process change must follow cultural change, not vice versa. Getting those reversed can result in negative consequences.

There is harm to taking the risk in implementing change – just make sure it’s a calculated one that considers process, people and culture.

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