Posts Tagged ‘adoption’

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Wasting Time…Agile-ly

April 1, 2011

You have probably heard of Bruce Tuckman’s model describing the stages of group development – Form, Storm, Norm, and Perform.   Unfortunately many in the agile community seem to be stuck in the storm stage.  You see it in discussions that often center on positions such as: “You’re not really agile unless you are doing <insert favorite agile practice here>” or “<Insert practice being disparaged here> is not agile.  <Insert agile theory here> is agile.” or “<Insert agile solution being sold here> is the ‘right’ or ‘only’ way to do agile.” 

The latest skirmish line I have noticed is the Bottom Up vs. Top Down agile adoption arguments.  In general, the bottom up camp supports adoption starting at the team level, with adoption bubbling up, eschewing the heavy hand of corporate process improvement initiatives.  The top down camp posits that bottom up won’t produce sustainable change and that adoption must be driven from the organization level, pushing down.  (Hmmm. I wonder what Friedman and Keynes would think.) 

Why waste time entertaining such squabbles?  Stepping back to get a little perspective, clearly for any significant change to be successful you have to approach it from both the top and bottom.  The people must be educated and mentored on the new competencies.  The organization must create a structure and environment in which the people and the new changes can thrive. 

Both Dan Akerson and Matt Barcomb pragmatically discuss how to introduce agile from the bottom without ignoring the need to change the organization at the top. 

What successful approaches have you experienced (from top or bottom) that might help others improve their agility?

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Has Your Agile Ship Sailed?

December 8, 2010

Sorry agile purists.  In the real world, most development groups that are using agile techniques (a surprisingly small percentage vs. the industry hype) are not using a “pure” agile approach.  They are using a blend of agile and waterfall techniques to the tune of more than 10 to 1, according to a recent article on Application Development Trends.  The article discusses a European survey of this topic published by a tool vendor.  (Caveat Emptor – Remember if you choose to download and read the actual “study”, it is really a vendor marketing piece based on the survey results – not the actual survey).  I guess the assertion that “waterfall is dead” is as premature as that of the mainframe also being dead.

 Is anyone surprised?  Contrary to what we are constantly barraged with by the agile marketers shouting “Agile, agile!” there is no need to swallow the agile elephant whole.  If you are in an organization that is not using agile techniques, don’t be tempted to lunge headlong into adopting everything agile, just because think you are missing the boat.  Not so.  This article / survey show what other studies have recently shown – that organizations doing agile are not (yet) in the majority.  Another indicator is that the primary tools being used to manage agile projects are still Microsoft Excel and Project.  And many groups are just using ad-hoc tools or working manually.

 So you still have time.  Learn from the majority of the organizations surveyed and adopt agile practices a few at a time.  Target the areas where you have the most problems and try out some lightweight practices.  Find out what works for you, give it time to diffuse into your organization, and then move on to adding additional practices. 

 What you will find is that it is not usually about the tools or about the agile practices themselves.  Most of the challenges in agile adoption are about people and organizations.  This survey cites resource management, cultural issues, change management, perceived loss of control, and executive buy-in as major stumbling blocks.  A “tools first” approach will not solve these.  Nor will a process-only approach.  While you are adopting more lightweight techniques, also look at your people issues and assess whether those can be resolved.  Otherwise they will be the rocks upon which your agile ship will run aground.