Tag Archives: success

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.

Lessons from an Ironman

My husband completed his first Ironman in Panama City, Florida. Something remarkable happened during the race and it makes me ponder similar implications in the work place. My husband’s watch broke. Actually, his second watch broke. The first one was kicked off and now sits on the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico. The second watch went black 90 minutes into the bike ride. So here he is, doing his first Ironman and he has virtually no ability to pace himself. The only way that he can ‘tell time’ is to watch the path of the sun and the only way he knows his relative position is to pass a mile marker, gauge his approximate speed and use that information to make decisions about nutrition and his pace.ironman2

As I am sure you can imagine, Ironman races are incredibly difficult. It is a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike following by a 26.2 mile run (a full marathon). Many well-experienced athletes have made the mistake of going too hard in the swim or the bike, only to find that their body doesn’t have enough energy left to finish the run. This is a very real risk and one that should not be taken lightly. So how do you, as a first time Ironman, pace yourself on the bike when you have no timepiece? Well, you do your best. And you listen to your body. And guess. And maybe pray a bit.

Step 3: Write a scene for success

In our previous blogs, we have outlined two key steps to take before you dive into that new project or idea that you are so excited about.  Those were: Step 1 – Set your Goals and Step 2 – Define your target audience, or personas.  Now it is time for the final step – decide what success looks like and the best way to do that is to write a scene.  I wish I could say this was my idea, but it’s not.  The smart people at Wharton wrote a great article on this concept called Visionary Leadership: Creating Scenes that Change the Future.   The idea is to define success for your project/challenge/opportunity by creating a scene – like in a movie – of what success would look like in the future.  We did this at a company that we are consulting with and it was a great exercise.

Write the Scene

movie-reel

Image Source: http://www.squidoo.com/screenwriting_tips

Our effort was an Agile implementation at a company with lots of legacy software and its fair share of legacy processes and ideas.  We sat down and pretended that we were through the Agile adoption and the core tenets of Agile were alive and well.  Our scene involved speedy response to a changing market condition, reprioritization of work, team execution of a new deliverable, finding out that deliverable was not the correct response, immediately incorporating that feedback, course-correcting and quickly deploying a more suitable solution.  This scene included management and stakeholders playing a supportive role without judgment, finger-pointing or unnecessary meetings.  Sounds like a dream world, right?  This was a great exercise because it forced us to think about all of the attitudes and practices that would need to change to make this scene a reality and that was eye-opening.