Blab: What are the biggest things you need to focus on during Agile adoption?

by Ray Cooke on 23/12/2015 10:00

When your organisation or team adopts Agile there are many problems associated with doing it wrong and conversely benefits from doing it well. To increase the likelihood of you running a successful Agile adoption, and realising the benefits, in this post and recorded Blab we address the question 'what are the biggest things you need to focus on during Agile adoption?'.

Blab topic: The big benefits that most organisations are missing when they do half-hearted Agile adoptions

We recently ran a Blab session (find out more about Blab) discussing half-hearted Agile adoption, where we worked through these questions:

This post covers the final question 'What are the biggest things you need to focus on during Agile adoption?'. Watch our discussion on this question in the above ~ 7 minute recorded Blab. There is also a transcript of the discussion below.

Blab presenters

Our presenters during the Blab presentation were:

  • Apple headphones: Rowan Bunning, Certified Scrum Trainer, Scrum WithStyle, Sydney, Australia (Equinox IT training partner for Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner training).
  • Glasses: Nick Foard, Principal Consultant, Equinox IT Auckland office, New Zealand
  • Suit jacket: Ray Cooke (me), Lean & Agile Business Transformation Coach, Equinox IT Wellington office, New Zealand.

Transcript of conversation

Ray: Our next sub-question, our final one which is "what are the biggest things to focus on trying for an Agile adoption?". So yeah, first off, that is disintermediation and getting the team closer to the customer. What else do we think are high out there on the list?

Nick: Building feedback loops as fast as possible. Getting that, I mean that carries on for what we've been talking about, yes, okay, let’s get close to the client, but there’s also building some regular quick feedback with our customers so that we’re constantly learning about what it is they want so that we don't misunderstand and we don't produce wasteful activities that don't deliver business value.

Rowan: Yeah, and I think getting the buy-in from the full stack as were in terms of not just bottom up, but top down, a lot of people call it. I think it's in the middle out as well, or at this, a lot of times where you might have the executive or high level kind of emotional support, but the key is often in the middle and the middle management who you’re not sure if they're rolling it now and are uncomfortable with change, what it means for them and implications for them. A lot of people coming to Scum training is sort of at the team lead level, a project manager or something like this, and they brought into it and they’re really keen for the change, but then it's that their boss or one or two levels of management up who's never been on an Agile training course before, and really behaving and making decisions out of the traditional management playbook. A lot of these things that they're doing are completely unintentionally just not aligned with this new Agile way of doing things.

Ray: Absolutely. We're trying to implement a new system without having the managers off that system aware of what the system is that they're trying to implement.

Rowan: Yeah, that's right. I think there's even this basic awareness that actually this involves you or it would needs to involve you to be successful, but it's not just something that the developers do and you just continue on as normal and it's you know…

Nick: That's funny. Years ago in management consulting, I was taught that the sort of order of the 3Ps was always a business to have a purpose first, then process, then people, in order of importance, because if a business doesn't have a purpose, what's the point? If you don't have a process for people to follow, they'll all end up doing whatever the hell they want to do, and then essentially the people use the process, so that they're down at the bottom here. Whereas the world we live in now, process isn't so important, and we're actually trying to cultivate innovation and creativity. And there's not so much sequence going on. When we were asking this question about what are the biggest things for me about what to focus on, I actually move people up. I still think purpose is still at the top, because if we don't have a purpose as a business, we've got nothing to shoot for. But, when I look at what the need to focus on quite early on, I look at people, and the type of people that I need to identify as the people who are going to be the champions for this transformation.

I think Rowan talked about it earlier when we spoke about awareness that there's something wrong with what we're doing and that awareness has got to the point of desiring to change. There will always be people in the organisation that aren't quite there yet. We'll get to them, but the important place for me to start is to identify the coaches that are going to help me with that Agile adoption. Those people that are already in the headspace, they may not know anything about Agile but they are good Jack of all trades. Their mindset is open. They're in a position where they want to help, because they've got that desire to adopt something new because they’re already frustrated with the status quo. For me, if you can start there or one of the places to start would be there -- identifying those people and getting those people through the training mill, on the side as coaches, trained up in Scrum, whatever you might need them to do. Having those people aligned is a good place to start.

I had a chat with the developer friend of mine the other day. I said to him, "What sort of skills should you look for in Agile team members? What's the most important?" I was expecting him to say a particular language or a particular development methodology. He said, "Collaboration, communicatio" those are the two "and positive attitude". Those were the three key skills that he would look for over and above how good a developer you are or how good an analyst you are or how good a tester you are.

Rowan: Yeah, I have a clien who's very big on that and they're hiring approach that it doesn't… if they come across someone who's an absolute rock star, who has this sort of prima donna attitude about it, and sort of says, “I do my own thing, my way” kind of thing, they're just totally not interested.

Ray: Avoid the hero programmers.

Rowan: How good coder they are, that's not the sort of people we're hiring. We're hiring people who play well with others and people who are learning off other.

Ray: It's a team exercise, not an individual. All right, we're running out of time. That's pretty much it. Any closing statements from any of you, to finish up on? I think we’ve probably covered off everything we were going to.

Nick: Yeah, I think so.

Ray: We've covered off what does a half-hearted Agile adoption mean? We did what are the most common Agile adoption problems? We moved on to the benefits we could see from a fantastic Agile adoption, and we've finished up with the biggest things to focus on when we're trying for an Agile adoption, so hopefully everybody just listened in can do an Agile adoption transformation without all those coaches.

Nick: No, no, no, no.

Ray: I think we made that point earlier.

Nick: It's always a good idea to have somebody on board who's done it before to point out, "Hey, you're kind of gone through the motions but have you considered this?" Yeah, absolutely.

Rowan: Yeah, there's a lot to learn. There's lot of implications from these ideas throughout that will take a lot of learning really, and you can accelerate that process if you bring in someone who’s been through it before.

Nick: Going back to my driving analogy, would you learn to drive without a driving instructor or at least somebody sat next to you teaching you how to drive?

Ray: I'm not going to answer that question.

Nick: Did you do it? Did you learn to drive?

Ray: Yeah, I know. I did have a driving instructor, but before that, actually, my dad sat me in the car and we'd driving around the garden going through every gear I could get to in a very short loop that's made me pretty confident with a clutch pretty soon. But anyway, it doesn't mean I knew all the theory was or the fact that I shouldn't run over a granny that's over a crossing.

Rowan: It’s one of these things you got to learn by doing it, it’s just like riding a bike. You can't read a manual on riding a bike and then suddenly get on it and be an excellent bike rider, isn’t it? You've got to learn by doing. So yeah, a lot of that comes down to coaching and learning on the job and having the space and the actual feeling that it's okay to actually spend a bit of time to learn things and you're not so flat out just doing it the same old way that you don't have time to learn.

Ray: Yeah, all right. Well, thanks guys. It was great chat and...

Nick: Yeah, cheers. Thank you.

Rowan: Thank you.

Ray: See you next time.

Rowan: Yeah, it's been fun. Cheers.

Nick: See you.

Blab: What are the biggest things you need to focus on during Agile adoption?


We'll be doing more Blab-based content in the future covering other common Agile and IT questions. Please let us know if you have any IT questions that you would like us to address.

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