“I’m going to get back in shape.”
We’ve all heard this statement at one point or another, whether it came from our out-of-shape neighbor or a struggling business owner. The aches & pains that come along with getting back into shape are undeniable. But, as a specialist in Agile Methodology and much like a fitness trainer it’s my job to remind my clients and companies they can do it.
All businesses can be agile with the right approach, professional support and a little bit of fierce determination.
If you’re looking to start a project organized in an Agile way, here are 4 fitness clichés that will actually help you get started on the right foot.
#1 “One size does (not) fit all.”
Every company (just like each body) is different – which is why my very first job is to listen. During the exploratory phase my goal is to, by the end of it, have answers to such open-ended questions as,
What are their business goals and challenges?
Why are they mentioning agility in a business context?
How do they plan to measure the success of our collaboration?
Are they looking to work in close contact with a dev team or give them complete autonomy to make decisions on their own?
There is no right or wrong answer to these questions; I’m only trying to discover the company as it is. This helps set the stage for the collaboration and acts the very foundation, the “why” behind the work to come.
Keep in mind, the answers to these questions may shift. Projects often experience something called “Change Evolution”. I fully expect a difference between my clients’ initial vision and what they want after being introduced to the full range of my services. This is normal.
#2 “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
The most agonizing misconception about Agility (by far) is the one synonymizing it with the lack of planning.
Erase this from your agile lexicon immediately.
The freedom in agility comes from effective outlining in the beginning, based on hypotheses rather than fact. This kind of freedom calls for a stressed importance on:
Defining and sharing your vision and initial hypothesis with all those involved
Empowering your team to suggest the best way to achieve the vision
Separation of hypothesis from fact. Continuous challenging of the hypothesis and adjustment of your plan according to new information learned
Continuous evaluation and reevaluation of your vision to ensure it is still both relevant & attainable
Success in a business context just as in fitness, is defined differently by everyone. Therefore, each plan or outline to achieve goals will take on a different shape – based on the body (or company).
In software development, these “outlines” are called frameworks.
As far as agility is concerned (besides an Agile mindset itself) there are a basket of beautiful frameworks and methods that fit under its umbrella. I make my recommendation based on the exploration phase.
For instance, I recommend Kanban for existing projects that are already well-defined and need a change or additional feature with a very short feedback loop. This framework revolves around the concept of the Just in Time (JIT) philosophy, where energy of the project team is specifically directed to the optimization of the value delivered, continuously. This approach allows us to shorten the learning curve and remain transparent.
– Kanban is like the mobile fitness app of frameworks, where you can chat directly with a trainer who expects you to check in with progress updates.
Scrum is the “total starter package” of Agile frameworks. If you hired a trainer who also doubled as a life coach, nutritionist & doctor – you could call him Scrum. This framework is used in situations where client needs/problems have yet to be defined and a number of solutions could be successful.
– Scrum is about radical, iterative change. It calls for close collaboration, and regular interaction with the Product Owner, Scrum Master & development team.
– If you’re looking to launch a new product or are unsure of what your bottlenecks are, then Scrum might be the way to go because it provides a set of simple organizational rules that are just-enough to start.
Just one example of a complement to these frameworks is Extreme Programming (XP), a software development methodology focused on software quality and responsiveness to changing customer requirements. Extreme Programming and its associated values work to strengthen the role of a framework within the context of an agile architecture by enforcing certain practices such as,
These are the strongholds in methodologies like XP that help minimize risk and help ensure the success of a truly agile software project. There are a basketful of frameworks and methods that work well with Agile.
The beautiful thing about Agile Methodology is that its’ frameworks are not mutually exclusive and can be used in a “mix and match” manner – including events such as the Sprint Planning Meeting, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review Meeting, Sprint Retrospective as well as those in the above list.
#3 “This Might Hurt a Little Bit.”
“We receive push back from about 30-40% of customers. But, it’s obviously for a reason. Our job is to find out why.” – Mike Hiver, Sales Eurasia
When embarking on a new fitness journey you might hear phrases such as,
“The hardest part is getting started” or “That sounds great for you, but it won’t work for me.”
Clichés are usually rooted in truth – so when I have a client tell me it’s impossible for them implement agility, my job is figure out what their roadblock is.
My solution is custom for every new client I meet who is experiencing difficulties transitioning to better business practices – but it revolves around the same concept. Whether it’s the case of the project team who is stuck in their ways and thinks they’re agile practitioners, the “in-the-dark” CEO who has no idea how many resources he’s flushing down the toilet by holding onto archaic business practices or the company who thinks they’re simply too small, too large or lacking in resources for Agile to significantly benefit them.
My answer to every single one of these problems is simple. Get educated.
Get educated on what is it to be genuinely agile. Get educated on what’s really going on inside your company. For this reason, I often put out an invitation to perform a preliminary experiment and measure the impact. It doesn’t have to happen all at once. Think big, act small.
#4 “It starts from within.”
Pentalog’s Agile journey started 13 years ago and helped build our portfolio of over 500 active customers by 2018.
At Pentalog, we’ve been managing projects based around Agile for 13 years now and through time we’ve managed to fine tune our approach to helping our clients work towards company-wide agility.
But, you can’t preach the gospel of Agile without being Agile yourself. That would be the equivalent of your trainer fist bumping you mid-squat with one hand while wolfing down a Snickers bar with the other. (Although, I find the trainers’ offense to be way more mean-spirited.)
In order to “walk the walk”, Pentalog launched “Guépard”, our own agility program in 2014. Aimed at better aligning internal processes and making Agility a part of our DNA, Guépard allows to set a precedent and transparently display the benefits & possible drawbacks (yes, I said it!) of being an agile company.
If you’re ready to get back into shape and need an extra push or some guidance, contact us to get your Agile project going!