People of a certain age might remember a television show in the early 1980s called The Greatest American Hero. Ralph, an unassuming school teacher, was chosen by aliens to be mankind's next best hope. They gave him a super-powered suit and an instruction manual, the latter of which he promptly lost. The series revolved around Ralph trying to do good without a solid understanding of how to use the tools he had at his disposal.
I’ve felt a lot like Ralph in my journey as an agile coach. I had all these agile “super powers,” but I lacked a full understanding of how to use them. For Ralph, simple things, like stopping bullets, were easy, while the more complex art of flying usually ended with him crashing. For me, coaching a handful of teams was easy. The challenge was moving beyond a few teams to scaling agile across a large, enterprise organization.
So I set out to create an instruction manual for an enterprise agile transformation. However, I quickly realized that what I really needed wasn’t a set of “do this, then this” instructions. With more than forty teams, one single set of instructions wouldn’t work. Instead, what I needed was a cookbook. Themed cookbooks focusing on a certain cuisine, such as barbecue, Thai, or Southern, typically revolve around key ingredients and give you several recipes for how to put those ingredients together.
The Agile Coach’s Transformation Cookbook allows me to move from helping a handful of isolated teams to enacting an organization-wide agile transformation, regardless of the scaling framework being used.
A Recipe for Success
The analogy I use to describe the agile transformation cookbook is making a hamburger. The construction of a typical burger starts with the bottom bun. Then you put on your meat, your lettuce, your tomato, and, finally, your top bun.
The construction of the perfect burger does not use the same steps as cooking the perfect burger. And not everyone likes the same ingredients; some people want pickles and no tomatoes, or maybe even a veggie patty instead of meat. And so it is with the recipe for an agile transformation.
There are five key ingredients that are rolled out in one order and prepared in another:
Bottom bun: Organization-wide education
Meat: Observation phase
Lettuce: Assessment phase
Tomato: Engagement phase
Top bun: Inspect and adapt cycle
Here is the standard recipe from the cookbook:
- Start your observation phase (put the meat on the grill)
- Deliver organization-wide training and lay the groundwork for the inspect and adapt cycle (toast your buns)
- Conduct team assessments (put your lettuce on the burger)
- Engage with the teams to help them with specific goals and impediments (time for the tomato)
- At regular intervals, inspect and adapt in order to improve (put the top bun on)