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

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Curious, Present, and Empathetic Agile Coach

Presence-Based Coaching: Cultivating Self-Generative Leaders Through Mind, Body, and HeartAt Agile 2010, David Spann and Gil Broza gave a workshop on agile coaching. The workshop involved several exercises to stress the importance of presence, curiosity and empathy.
They started out by emphasizing the importance of good posture when engaging a client. Posture subconsciously sends message of energy and others will check in or check out based on that. When standing, stand in with right foot in and always feel your toes. When sitting, sit up straight and also feel your toes. If things are not going your way, know your presence and adjust accordingly. They also reminded us that standing up is a power high energy position. It means you are involved.
Next, David and Gil define empathy as repeating in your own words what was said, mirroring hand gestures, and not trying to pass judgment at the moment of interaction.
The Leadership Dojo: Build Your Foundation as an Exemplary LeaderFinally, curiosity involves asking questions and figuring out the context. They wrap up by recommending several books:
Presence Based Coaching
Leadership Dojo
Coaching with NLP: How to Be a Master CoachCoaching with NLP

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Look Before You Leap - Agile Readiness Assessments Done Right

At Agile 2010, Gerry Kirk and Michael Sahota led a workshop on Agile assessments. The format was more like an open space discussion where Gerry and Michael started out by asking the group to come up with some objectives for having an assessment:
  • Tuning of training according to needs
  • Maximizing value and effectiveness of training
  • Revealing constraints, building trust
  • Finding out motivations for going agile
  • Figuring out pain points
  • Deciding where to focus
  • Understanding fears smell
  • Understanding the state across of the organization
  • Defining success
  • Figuring out where the organization is currently at and their current practices
  • Setting the right expectations
  • Making the transition owned internally
Next Gerry and Michael suggested a format for the assessment and define 4 parts: Preparation, Data collection, Analysis, and Recommendation and next steps. They suggested that each group brainstorms and comes up with ideas for all the parts. They started us out with the following examples:
  • Prepare: 12 question survey from break all the rules
  • Data analysis: Lean value stream mapping with x-functional work group to show process and lead time
  • Analysis: From interviews write stickies for culture, technology, product, people, process
  • Recommendation and next step: Meet with key decision makers and workers to create a transition backlog

Next, each of the groups tried to come up with their own ideas but non where as detailed as the ones provided by Gerry and Michael. Below is a summary of what the teams came up with

  • Prepare checklist for us and the client
  • Conduct outside research on organization
  • Learn the organizational structure
  • Identify sponsors and stakeholders
  • Find a champion
  • Prepare non attribution statement
  • Present readiness and process group
  • Establish point of contacts for all logistics
  • Conduct survey to figure out current process
  • Conduct Schneider culture survey
  • Conduct a survey to gauge urgency for change and current company health
  • Compile a list of various articles, videos on agile introductory topics
  • Present a related experience report
  • Get organization aware of agile through training

Data collection:
  • Meet the team and the leaders
  • Observe the team at work and identify the different roles
  • Identify and document current agile practices
  • Identify and document current agile non practices
  • Document the current approach for managing and organizing work
  • Document the goals of the movement to agile from execs to team members
  • Create a baseline metric

  • Determine waste in value stream map
  • Perform Kano analysis on techniques
  • Try to identify potential pilot project and pilot team
  • Look for feelings by team
  • Look for variation in perspective
  • Distill interview into mindmaps
  • Look for often mentioned bottle necks
  • Perform futurespective (innovation game)

Recommendations and next step:
  • Create statement of work on improvement goals
  • Create cross functional transition team and backlog
  • Establish target metrics
  • Create training plans
  • Create transition timeline with goals
  • Have a workshop for executives to share findings
  • Establish ground rules and agreement
  • Perform retrospective to improve future assessments

This is all very much a work in progress and Gerry and Michael are going to continue to gather ideas and eventually publish an assessment guideline.