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Agile Australia 2011 Series - Sustain your Agile Transformation

Move at a pace you can sustain, and a price you can sustain.

It’s much easier to take baby steps then make a wholesale radical shift and zap your organisastion into Agile overnight, but it does come at a cost. The price you will pay is that during your slow and steady change program your software won’t be cheaper to build and your efficiency won’t be optimised. So you will carry some costs of inefficiency while you are in a transitional phase.

Why not make the move to Agile Transformation in a radical wholesale manner if it would maximise your efficiency and give you best possible return for your money in the shortest time? Well there are many reasons, and it saddens me to say I’ve experienced all of them in the past. In many ways this is a very sad topic for me as it encapsulates all of the frustrations and limitations I’ve felt in our own agile transformation.

Reasons not to blast through with radical transformation can include:

  • Your management doesn’t believe in the empirical efficiencies that can be gained and need to have it proven to them
  • Your organisation is not comfortable with radical change and you feel a lack of confidence in initiating such a change, could be; a highly regulated industry, old industry or even that your role is not massively influential
  • The culture wouldn’t support agile and you feel you must be stealthy, could be; a lack of trust, a blame culture, political environment, or large ‘enterprise wide’ factions exist that will block you

How can I offer you hope on this topic?

· Be realistic about what resources are available and what outcome you can achieve.

If you have a small budget you might just have to move slowly. For us we tackled process first, and development practices such as TDD and ATDD have come at the end, it’s not ideal but it was completely sustainable for us and fitted within our context of a legacy platform, a few skilled agile resources and very small budget for agile learning.

Our model was do a pilot project and asses. Then we did another project and assessed that one. One by one we then transitioned each development stream to using the same agile approach until our 8 concurrent streams were all working in this way.

This addresses the ‘unbelieving management’ syndrome as you can prove an agile success in a pilot situation. In addition it proves that a different approach can work in your organisation, addressing the fear of change and perhaps the unsupportive culture. You can build a positive culture in one team that will make Agile work, and then proving it to yourself you can move forward with baby steps, building on each success and promoting success vigorously each time.

If I came across agile people buried in their organisation thinking that they can’t make a change I would recommend starting small and moving sustainably, after all, baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

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