Personal Agility for More Potent Agile Adoption

[article]
Summary:
In this article, the authors propose that the most effective teams—those that show a tremendous improvement in productivity and value to their organizations—have individual team members who take ownership, act responsibly, and are disciplined in recognizing and responding to change at a personal level.

As Agile becomes better known, many troubled teams are deciding to adopt Agile practices to help fix their problems. Most clients seeking our help in Agile adoption want to start by pursuing process and tools. The more dysfunctional their teams, the less tolerance they have for focusing on individuals and their interactions.

We have found that the most effective teams—those that show a tremendous improvement in productivity and value to their organizations—have individual team members who take ownership, act responsibly, and are disciplined in recognizing and responding to change at a personal level.

These individuals adopt Agile practices because they have made a conscious decision to do so. They do what it takes to make things work.

Why Adopt Agile Practices?
Why do teams adopt Agile software development practices? The answer varies depending on the situation. They may have adopted Agile methods to reduce bug count, improve time to market, or reduce the overall cost of development. Or, maybe there was a vague lsquo;something is seriously wrong' feeling in the way they were producing software and they or someone in their organization read about this new-fangled technique called Agile that is supposed to help. Or, increasingly as Agile becomes mainstream, someone in management thinks it is a good idea and has mandated that the department or organization will adopt Agile. Management was trying to help and not hinder software development in some way. All these reasons have a common thread of wanting to make software development better and ultimately deliver more value to the organization.

What is a Successful Adoption?
We adopt Agile development practices to build better software and deliver more value to the organization. Is this adoption always successful? {sidebar id=1} Well, that would depend on the definition of lsquo;successful', wouldn't it? If successful means lsquo;we are practicing one or more Agile development practices,' chances are, most adoptions are successful. But that is not a very satisfying (or useful definition). We really should go back to the original goals that we used to justify adopting a new software methodology. That is, have we decreased our defect rate? Have we reduced our time to market? Have we become more productive? Are we more productive at creating better software that is providing increased value to our organization? THAT should be the measure of successful Agile adoption and that will be the definition of success we use here.

Problem: Many Unsuccessful Agile Adoptions
Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Agile adoption efforts are successful by our definition. In the early days of the Agile development community, frequent reports of 2x, 3x, 5x, and more in productivity gains were reported. These teams made progress in leaps and bounds and delivered software that truly helped their organizations move forward. Why aren't all teams seeing this improvement?

Cause: It Depends
So why aren't many seeing productivity improvements upon adopting Agile practices? Why are they unsuccessful - is there some secret? Is there yet another practice that only the successful know? Well, unfortunately, the answer is no. The causes are as varied as the teams themselves. There is no one solution to our problems. But there is a commonality that we find in all successful teams; their members take ownership for tasks and do what needs to be done to make them work.

The Responsibility Process Model
Now we'll switch gears for a bit and come back later to tie the different ideas together.
Figure 1 represents a model that we find invaluable in helping individuals become agile rather than simply going through the motions of acting agile. [i] It explains the mental process we, as human

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