Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Accelerating Your Organization’s Agile Adoption

Bryan Campbell and Robbie Mac Iver gave a talk at Agile 2010 about Agile Adoption. They started out by discussing how acquiring a skill requires time, practice and a mentor. They then defined 7 stages of agile expertise based on the work of Meiler Page-Jones:

  • Innocent: unaware of agile techniques
  • Aware: aware and seeking to learn more
  • Apprentice: ready to apply their skills to a real project
  • Practitioner: leap from classroom projects to those of real world complexity
  • Journeyman: agile techniques embedded natural way of working
  • Master: range of real-world project experiences; ability to teach these techniques to Apprentices
  • Researcher: sharing knowledge with a broader community; champion to further extend the benefits of agile techniques

Next they identify the risk and challenges from moving from one stage to the next. Moving from innocent to aware can happen fairly quickly. Moving from apprentice, to practitioner, to journeyman requires more effort and will take longer; however, it is during these stages that you get the greatest increases in productivity. Reaching the master and researcher stage will take even longer and not many companies see value in having employees reach this level. The tipping point is usually when more than 50% of the organization is at the practitioner level and more than 75% is operating at the apprentice level.

Next Bryan and Robbie discuss the J-curve effect where an apprentice struggles in adapting his new skills to real situations and reverts back to old techniques. This causes a dip in the skills progression which results in a decrease of productivity and a risk that crossing to the next level might stall or eventually fail. This is where having access to an experience coach or mentor is crucial to overcome the J curve and achieve a successful agile adoption.

Bryan and Robbie recommend 2 techniques that can help accelerate agile adoption:

  • The Breadth approach focuses on developing a solid foundation of best practices and refining them over time. This works best in the move from innocent to aware, or from practitioner to journeyman.
  • The Depth approach is focused on a more active engagement/participation of mentors on a real project. It is more of a deep dive and is best for crossing the J-curve from apprentice to practitioner.

They next cover agile leadership guidelines. They recommend

  • Addressing culture and values first and then practices will generally follow
  • Working in ways that embrace change and adjusting methods to fit the project
  • Creating teams of advanced citizens to ensure team dynamics
  • Influencing team decisions by setting movable boundaries

Bryan and Robbie wrapped up by presenting each group with different real life scenarios and having each group discuss different ways of resolving them.

The scenarios can be found at

The presentation slides are available at