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Agile transformations - The good, the bad, and the ugly

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Are the majority of agile transformations failing?  Succeeding? Just sort of stumbling along? It’s really hard to tell.  You hear a lot of promises and platitudes from consulting firms specializing in transformations, you read case studies that focus on the good and downplay the bad, and there’s a plethora of agile trainers who will certify that you’re a master, a professional, or an agile coach in just a few short days.  Who do you trust to share with you what’s really happening in organizations making these transformations?  What’s really working?  What isn’t?

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Agile transformations - The good, the bad, and the ugly

  1. 1. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 1 Agile Transformations The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
  2. 2. Scott Ambler •  Helps enterprise-class organizations around the world to improve their processes and organization structures •  Thought leader of: –  Agile Modeling (AM) method –  Agile Data (AD) method •  Co-creator of the Disciplined Agile (DA) framework •  Author of 20+ books •  scott [at] •  Advisory Board, ScaleFree •  Advisory Board, SEMAT © Disciplined Agile Consortium 2 @scottwambler
  3. 3. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 3
  4. 4. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 4 Agenda •  The Ugly: Challenges with Agile Transformation •  The Bad: Questionable Strategies •  The Good: Strategies for a Disciplined Journey •  Parting Thoughts
  5. 5. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 5 The Ugly: Challenges with Agile Transformations
  6. 6. Change Efforts have a Lousy Track Record •  Average success rate of change initiatives 34% –  Standish Group, 2011 •  Reasons –  Lack of a structured change management process –  Irrational human behavior –  Treating change as linear process initiatives 6 © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  7. 7. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 7
  8. 8. Culture is Hard to Change •  Typical goals of agile transformations –  Build high performance motivated teams –  Optimize enterprise groups for agility (such as finance, architecture, UX, QA) –  Centers of Excellence/Communities of Practice –  Incorporate agile governance –  Alignment with HR/People Operations •  These goals require culture change •  Cannot force people to change •  Change must be negotiated continuously 8© Disciplined Agile Consortium
  9. 9. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 9
  10. 10. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 10 The Bad: Questionable Strategies
  11. 11. Agile software teams are building awesome race car engines… 11© Disciplined Agile Consortium
  12. 12. …but they are surrounded by organizational tractors 12© Disciplined Agile Consortium
  13. 13. Questionable Strategy: Focus Solely on Software Development © Disciplined Agile Consortium 13
  14. 14. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 14 Questionable Strategy: Let each area/group determine how they can transform – “Divide and conquer”
  15. 15. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 15 Questionable Strategy: Hope your problem will solve itself
  16. 16. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 16 Questionable Strategy: Wait until there’s a obvious crisis before you begin your change journey
  17. 17. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 17 Questionable Strategy: Assume that senior leadership knows best Don’t be silly, the staff will do what we tell them.
  18. 18. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 18 Questionable Strategy: Believing that you can transform quickly
  19. 19. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 19 Questionable Strategy: Assume everyone wants to go on your improvement journey
  20. 20. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 20 Questionable Strategy: Adopting an agile framework because everyone else is doing it
  21. 21. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 21 Questionable Strategy: Assume that transformations are straightforward
  22. 22. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 22 The Good: Strategies for a Disciplined Journey
  23. 23. Delivery teams interact with the rest of the organization, and they need to become agile too! © Disciplined Agile Consortium 23 Enterprise Architecture Security Finance Operations People Management Procurement IT Governance Data Management And many more…
  24. 24. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 24 Enterprise Coaching Team Coaching
  25. 25. Agile Transformation Effort Over Time 25 © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  26. 26. Agile Champions/ Sponsors •  Agile champions external to the team can help support and promote change •  Help to accelerate agile “transformation” in the organization •  Without executive sponsors in it for the long term it is very unlikely your adoption will succeed •  You need an internal Product Owner for your transformation 26 © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  27. 27. Continuous Improvement Process Blade © Disciplined Agile Consortium 27
  28. 28. Establish CoEs and CoPs/Guilds •  Centres of Excellence –  Typically staffed full time by “experts” –  Temporary –  Ensure consistency of approach and messaging –  Provide leadership and purposely disseminate information –  Enterprise & Team Coaches •  Communities of Practice/Guilds –  Part-time responsibility staffed by practitioners (could be guided by CoE) –  Long-term –  Shared learnings and experiences –  Improve their collective craft over time © Disciplined Agile Consortium 28
  29. 29. 29 A Disciplined Agile Centre of Excellence © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  30. 30. Invest in Coaching © Disciplined Agile Consortium 30
  31. 31. Disciplined Coaches Focus on Mindset and Skillset Values Principles Lifecycles Process Goals/Blades Decision Points Practices/Strategies © Disciplined Agile Consortium 31 Mindset Skillset
  32. 32. 32© Disciplined Agile Consortium
  33. 33. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 33 Executive Workshops -  Education -  Vision -  Guiding Principles
  34. 34. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 34 Several “Big Visible Charts” will help communicate our vision & progress against it
  35. 35. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 35
  36. 36. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 36 Minimal Viable Changes (MVC) •  A Minimal Viable Change is a change that you believe is small enough to be successful that balances disruption and organizational value •  Experiments •  Steps to incorporate the change: 1.  Agree on the reason for the change 2.  Negotiate the change 3.  Validate the option (introduce the improvement) 4.  Learn & verify improvement •  How to identify MVCs?
  37. 37. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 37 Tool: Insights, Options, & Approved Backlog of options 37 Insights MVC Options Approved/Next As a process decision framework, DA provides a rich set of options to choose from Example: -  Insight: QA requires more details to test from -  Options for MVC: -  More detail in use cases -  Supplement stories with screen mock-ups -  More detail in acceptance criteria -  QA participates in all conversations Having selected an option for an experiment, it is moved to the approved/ next backlog
  38. 38. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 38 Pulling MVCs from the Backlog 38
  39. 39. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 39 Work grouped by Vision goals
  40. 40. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 40 Work in Progress board
  41. 41. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 41 Part of “Introducing” the change is negotiating with the change recipients. Eg) Why should we redesign, collocate teams, and keep them together? Questions Guiding Principle How long will this team be together? Teams improve over time, striking/disbanding teams is expensive, learnings lost Do we have 100% dedicated Developers and QA? Anything less that 100% is an excuse for non-commitment, hurts team morale, very costly due to task switching, reduced accountability Who are the team members’ managers? Team makeup is often suboptimal if tied to functional hierarchy What is the team size? Ideal team size is 5-9 people Is a PO/BA dedicated? Busy? A PO/BA should be dedicated Is team collocated? Productivity and collaboration increases dramatically with collocation Is this a feature or component team? Most organizations have a mix Is this a “whole team”? Reduced dependencies on resources external to team is beneficial
  42. 42. Metrics Design with GQM © Disciplined Agile Consortium 42 Goals trace back to Vision
  43. 43. A Strategy Board helps tie high level objectives from the Vision canvas to smaller enablers © Disciplined Agile Consortium 43
  44. 44. From Transformation to Continuous Improvement 44 •  This is a journey, not a destination •  Once the key transformative work has been complete, the transformation changes more to a continuous improvement approach © Disciplined Agile Consortium
  45. 45. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 45 MVC example: Redesign & collocate teams DA106: Disciplined Agile for Managers da106 Functional Manager - Equities Teams Team Member Team Member Team Member Team Member Team Lead Architecture Owner Leopard Team Team Member Team Member Team Member Jaguar Team Team Lead Architecture Owner Functional Manager - Fixed Income Teams Team Member Team Member Team Member Team Member Team Lead Architecture Owner Maserati Team Team Member Team Member Team Member Porsche Team Team Lead Architecture Owner
  46. 46. Another example Get plans out of MS Project & make them visible. (no hidden work!) © Disciplined Agile Consortium 46
  47. 47. Another example: Replacing detailed project charters & requirements docs with 3-day Inception phases © Disciplined Agile Consortium 47
  48. 48. Another example: Workspace design No need for meeting rooms!! Fosters continuous collaboration © Disciplined Agile Consortium 48
  49. 49. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 49
  50. 50. © Disciplined Agile Consortium 50
  51. 51. Some Advice •  Communicate, communicate, communicate (town halls, radiators, wikis, lean coffees) – radical transparency! •  Have a Product Owner for your Transformation •  Executive sponsorship is critical •  Coach and mentor people over the long term –  Everyone and at all levels of the organization, not just IT •  Get some help from experienced Enterprise Coaches •  Hire coaches who can help you to “be agile” AND to “do agile” © Disciplined Agile Consortium 51
  52. 52. scott [at] Twitter: @scottwambler Thank You! © Disciplined Agile Consortium 52
  53. 53. Would You Like This Presented to Your Organization? Contact us at © Disciplined Agile Consortium 53
  54. 54. Scott Ambler + Associates is the thought leader behind the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) framework and its application. We are a boutique IT management consulting firm that advises organizations to be more effective applying disciplined agile and lean processes within the context of your business. Our website is We can help © Disciplined Agile Consortium 54