Tag Archives: commitment

Three Ingredients of Agile Success

By most accounts, my first experience with an Agile roll-out (specifically Scrum) was quite successful.  We went from 3 Scrum teams to 12, we increased employee job satisfaction measurably and we delivered faster and more accurately than ever before.  We rolled out six products in less than 3 years and that is a remarkable feat.  One that I am certain we could not have achieved without moving to – and embracing – Agile.  So how did we do it?  What made our efforts successful when many other companies have struggled or failed?  Here are my perspectives on how we found success.

Image Source: http://obdc.com/consulting-for-business-success/

Image Source: http://obdc.com/consulting-for-business-success/

Executive Sponsorship

Agile is a movement that requires top-down leadership to say ‘this is going to happen, here is why it is good and we should all start rowing in that direction.’ Without that vision and dedication to making it happen, it would have been really hard to move out of Waterfall, which had been ingrained into the workflows, processes and the very culture of an organization.  But top-down isn’t enough.  You also have to have a group of developers that are eager to make the change.  Like most things, you cannot force people to change their behaviors if they are completely unwilling participants.   At our company, we were very lucky.  We had incredibly talented developers across the organization who were anxious to try new ideas and see how we could innovate.  That bottoms-up enthusiasm combined with the top-down dedication gave the movement to Agile a fighting chance.

Planning Poker for Chores

We are an Agile family. Some of our processes work better than others, in typical Agile fashion, but we aspire to continously learn and improve.  Our latest family problem is chores. We have three teenagers and determining what is fair and finding a common “definition of done” is quite challenging, filled with all kinds of wonderful teenage angst. PlanningPoker Our activities tonight are attempting to bring clarity.

Step 1: Define chores with a Definition of Done

First, we sat down with index cards and listed out the chores, one per page. Truthfully, I did this mostly on my own but I read them all to the kids to make sure they agreed.

The final list was as follows:

  1. Empty kitchen trash and take out recycling whenever full (2)
  2. Empty all trash cans, take trash to curb on Tuesday morning, retrieve Tuesday night (1)
  3. Vacuum tile floors upstairs – baths and laundry room (we have a dog that sheds) twice a week (5)
  4. Vacuum upstairs carpets once a week (8)
  5. Vacuum downstairs floors once a week (8)
  6. Empty full dishwasher whenever clean (5)
  7. Clean off counters, tables, put shoes in closets nightly (5)
  8. Do dinner dishes and put away left-overs nightly, not pots and pans (8)
  9. Wash pots and pans, dry them and put them away by 9:00 a.m. the next morning (13)

Sacredness of the Sprint

Here is another excerpt from our upcoming Agile textbook.  This is a topic that I am particularly passionate about!

No Changes to the Sprint

One of the most importance cultural changes related to Agile adoption is adhering to the sacredness of the sprint.  What does this mean?  It means that once a sprint goal is committed to, there should be no changes to that goal.  sprint_sacred.jpgThe group that has the hardest time adhering to this is upper management.  There is always some crises or customer request or great idea that an executive wants the team to investigate immediately and there is a tendency for executives to pull the team off of their sprint commitment to work on the latest critical task.  The companies that allow this type of distraction have the most difficult time adopting Agile.  The companies that stand firm and honor their sprint commitments tend to be more successful in their adoptions over all.  Truly, it is a sign of executive commitment to the process and the methodology if they honor this one aspect.

Mike Cohn, in his book Succeeding with Agile, is very firm on this issue. “Nothing is allowed to change within the sprint. The team commits to a set of work on the first day and then expects its priorities to remain unchanged for the length of the sprint. “ (2010, pg 279)