Implementing agile processes can be like putting together a puzzle. But what happens when the pieces don't fall into the right place? Alicia Yanik tells the story of Daniel, who is wound up about his company's new agile elements, and Meg, who sees things from a more enlightened angle.
Walking down the hall to Meg's office, Daniel thought that his day couldn't be any worse. Luckily for him, Meg was in her office with no means of escaping a conversation.
"You won't believe my day," he said, stomping into Meg's office. Before she could even muster a response, he launched into something resembling a semi-controlled rant.
"I feel like one of those game show contestants. You know, 'Pick a door, win a prize.' Only let me tell you, the prizes behind my doors aren't anything Monty Hall hands out. Behind door one is Team A - great group of people, work well together, but they just blew a sprint. You'd think it would be difficult for an entire team to lose focus for ten business days, but there you have it. Whatever they planned to do last Monday is not what was in their demo today. To make things particularly sticky, the VP of product marketing sat in on the demo. She's not happy, and I don't blame her. The damage isn't irreparable, of course, but damage control isn't what I'd planned for the next few days."
Meg opened her mouth to respond but snapped it shut when Daniel continued.
"And then there's Team B, trying to implement automated testing. This is a good thing," he said. "But implementing something new takes time, and their velocity for the last few sprints has decreased. Today the company decided it would rather have more stories shipped during this release than take a hit to the team's velocity - saying now is not the time to 'scrimp' on delivering even one feature shy of the team's known velocity. How could someone possibly believe that integrating automated testing is 'scrimping'?
"Meg, I can see you're getting ready to deliver great words of wisdom, but hold on, because I'm far from done."
Meg sat back and settled in for what seemed a rather one-sided conversation.
"In my meeting today with the VP of product development, he told me he's a big supporter of our agile efforts but feels strongly that having a small team available for 'quick' hits would be helpful," Daniel said. "He envisions a team that includes two developers, one tester, and the freedom to release code on a whim - no process, no methodology, just a team completely devoted to ad hoc work. Can you imagine what that would do to the rest of the department? Our teams are really starting to gel. I shudder to think of what could happen if we released random code, not to mention what this could do to morale.
"This afternoon a project manager - one of the best facilitators on the team - came to work sick to run a meeting because we had invited one of our biggest clients to see agile in action. Do you know what happens when a competent but feverish project manager runs a planning meeting? Mayhem! As if the team hadn't participated in a planning meeting before!
"And the worst part is that I heard we may undergo yet another reorganization," Daniel said with a grimace. As Daniel took a deep breath, Meg saw an opportune moment and jumped in.
"Daniel, sit down," she said. "I agree your day was difficult, but I don't think it's quite as bad as you make it out to be. I think you lost your perspective somewhere along the way. I might have done the same thing in your situation.
"Agile's not a quick fix, and we never thought its principles would make our lives simple. If we don't make mistakes and