Transition Roadmap: Building Trust
The transition to Agile from a legacy enterprise organization begins with building trust and bridging the chasm that the organization has opened with its business clients. This bridge is best built starting with a successful pilot that regularly delivers business value. In order to bring the correct sense of urgency to the pilot, a highly visible, high business value effort should be selected. This requires courage, since new approaches are typically piloted on low-risk, low-visibility efforts to minimize the impact of failure. To minimize the real risk, the pilot should pull no punches, and create a fully-functional Agile team with all key skilled resources collocated in a collaborative environment. Pilot teams should be trained by seasoned Agile coaches, and set up with a stable pipeline of prioritized work, staged with the help of Agile consultants experienced in organizational transformation and turning backlogs of user stories into working product. Scrum can provide a solid framework that gives process-focused organizations a starting foundation of implementing a lightweight method for agility. Organizational learning can be amplified by piloting multiple teams simultaneously, pulling work from a common backlog and sharing retrospectives after each iteration.
Once the team has been selected, trained, and collocated, expectations must be set regarding the group becoming a real team. Every effort should be made to create a highly collaborative environment, and this can be aided by focusing the team on as few tasks as possible. This is all established in the daily stand-up meeting, where the team self-organizes to close tasks and stories prioritized by the business and made visible by the leader (ScrumMaster). It is not unusual for a seasoned project manager, new to Agile, to try and assign as many tasks as possible in an effort to divide and conquer, but this sets the team up to work as individuals instead of together as a team. Using Agile status tracking artifacts such as the burn-down and burn-up charts helps expose this behavior. Make productivity and quality visible by updating frequent counts of completed stories, and any other key metrics required by the organization. By keeping these metrics visible the team gets a constant reminder, and this is another key focus topic for the daily stand-up.
The real success driver of the pilot will be the pleased business client who gets incremental delivery at regular intervals. The higher up this key client is in the business organization, the better exposure for the Agile team. Ideally, the business client has frequent interaction with the team, and helps validate stories as they close. Once this pattern is established, the focus becomes the next story in the prioritized backlog, and change tolerance becomes normal as product manager has the freedom to change priorities of work outside the sprint. Keeping the effort tightly coupled with changing business needs is the tangible difference that will draw the right attention to the pilot, and ensure its success is contagious throughout the organization. New Agile pilots typically expose legacy enterprise silos as barriers to fast delivery. The CIO should expect this tension and be ready to assist in changing behaviors and expectations of the existing organization.
With success, the CIO should begin to focus on scaling up the Agile pilot successes. An established approach is to evenly split the successful pilot team, and bring in new resources to work