Patterns of Agile Adoption

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could get their perspective on how things were going. Strangely, though, I didn't find four teams-I found five. When I figured out which of the five wasn't one that Sarah had told me about, I went back and talked with that team some more. I discovered that while to any outside observer they looked exactly like any other agile team, they were not an officially sanctioned part of Sarah's pilot project. They had noticed one of the official teams, liked what they saw, and decided to try it themselves. They had a vague sense that they probably shouldn't be doing what they were doing and had placed their wall-hanging task board and burndown chart well inside a labyrinth of cube walls. I had only stumbled across it because I was unfamiliar with the building and had gotten lost looking for one of the official teams. This team was transitioning using the Stealth Mode pattern. They were using an agile approach, but were keeping their activities to themselves until the project was complete.

In contrast to a Stealth Mode transition is the Public Display of Agility . In this approach the team or organization announces with great fanfare that they are transitioning to agile. Depending on the scope and significance of the transition, the announcements may range from lunch room comments to other teams all the way up to press releases in the national media.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Stealth Mode

The advantages to a Stealth Mode transition include:

  • When operating in Stealth Mode you can wait until the project is successful before indicating that the project was run in a different way. Or, if the project fails, you can adjust your agile process, try again, and only tell people you're using an agile development process after you've figured how to do it successfully.
  • If you start quietly such that no one but the individuals involved know about the change, there's no one who can tell you to stop. This fits with the old adage of it being easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

There are of course drawbacks to Stealth Mode:

  • You won't have any organizational support. If you need organizational support for some of the necessary changes you may not be able to get it.
  • Announcing at the end of a project that the project was successful in part because of agile is much less compelling to skeptics than telling them upfront. Of all Babe Ruth's home runs the most famous is the 1932 "called shot." With a count of two balls and two strikes Ruth pointed to the centerfield fence and hit the next pitch into the centerfield bleachers. Saying what you'll do and then doing it is more powerful than announcing your goal after it's been achieved.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Public Display of Agility

The advantages to the Public Display of Agility include:

  • Everyone knows you're doing it so you're more likely to stick with it.
  • Publicly proclaiming your intent provides an opportunity to create thought and discussion around the goal. With the intent out in the open, team members will feel comfortable talking about the transition with those outside the team. This hopefully will build support among some individuals and get the resistance of others out in the open for discussion.
  • Unlike a Stealth Mode transition there's no backing away from the Public Display of Agility. This makes a very powerful statement: not only does the organization plan to initiate the transition, it plans to succeed.
  • Like the All In approach, the Public Display of Agility certainly demonstrates a high level of commitment to

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