Over the past decade companies finally realized there’s a better way to deliver software. It’s called Agile. If you work in technology, this shouldn’t be news to you. If you are unfamiliar with Agile, check out the Agile manifesto here. In Agile, the development team delivers software in short iterations. They partner with stakeholders to ensure they are building the right product. The process is faster, more efficient, and more collaborative than traditional software development.
Companies have caught on to the benefits of Agile. Agile began as an organic evolution of software development. It has now become a top down order. Thou shalt be Agile! Executives and managers order their technology teams to go and “be Agile”. They force people to leave the comfort of their cubicles. They put them in a
overcrowded pod with no privacy co-located work space. They bring in coaches and expect teams to become Agile out of the gate.
What is the result of this forced top down order to be Agile? Unhappy teams who give off the external appearance of being Agile, but are far from it. They have daily standups, report velocity, and produce burn down charts. They do all they can to show the leadership team that they have become Agile, and the leadership team buys it.
Here’s the thing:
Moving from a traditional SDLC to Agile is a huge change. Combine that with the fact that people in general don’t like change and you have a major challenge. It’s more than just a changing processes, it’s changing culture. In an Agile environment, team members need to collaborate. They need to be open and honest. They need to sit near each other. They need to actually talk to each other (what a concept)!
Becoming Agile is difficult for employees that worked in isolation for many years. They may feel insecure about being transparent with their work. They may also be afraid that by being more transparent, they will have less job security. They can be quick to judge or find fault with any new processes introduced. All it takes is one team member who isn’t drinking the Agile Kool-Aid to infect a whole team.
Here are 3 reasons why companies fail when trying to become Agile:
1) They don’t invest – Making the change to Agile is an organizational investment. I’m not just referring to a time and emotional investment (which it is). I’m also referring to the cold hard green stuff. Especially for large organizations, if you want to do this right, you will need to bring in help. You’ll also need to invest in the right tool set like Atlassian JIRA or VersionOne. This is where most companies go wrong. They hire one person to come in as an Agile coach. The coach will try to help for several months. Employees are then sent to a 1 or 2 day Agile training course.
2) They are not in it for the long haul – Spotify, Twitter and Yahoo had success implementing Agile. They did so by bringing in coaches, implementing training, tools, and organizing practice groups. Their Agile adoption didn’t happen over a matter of months, the transition took years. Leadership teams need to approach Agile adoption with a long term strategy.
3) They under communicate – Agile adoption is a huge change initiative. When taking on any change initiative, companies tend to under communicate by a lot. It is the responsibility of the leadership team to put a communication plan in place. Employees need to understand why the company is making the change to Agile. They need to know how it benefits them and the organization. Some creative ways to communicate include emails, newsletters, meetings, focus groups, and social media. The communication needs to be happening on a daily basis. Below is a great video on communicating a vision for change. The video is by Harvard leadership professor John Kotter:
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