Honestly Agile


to know the hard benefits and the motivators, but they need to truly understand and trust that they are achieved through all agile practices. That does not happen overnight.

The message can’t be purely by “let’s build more features in less time” without giving the teams a commitment to full agile. That includes that several traditional project management activities are being delegated to the team (e.g. estimating and planning).

If an enterprise is looking at agile processes purely for delivering more product features in less time, will leave the team without a choice than to exactly show that. Keep in mind, agile is much more than iterative development with a project manager, it is empirical. That means, that the emphasis is the increment of the project combined with the evolution of the process. Nothing is stagnant in this model. There is no installment script for agile project management and it is not a one-step process. It is a continuation.

Without trust, project teams play the game they are part of. Real progress can be massaged with every process that does not exclude agile processes. Teams know when they are being measured in velocity or user story completion. They can control the situation. In other words, they can beat the system by low-balling their predications and shine in the newly created agile system. They appear to management that they are more productive, but they might in fact delivering the same amount of features as they did before the introduction of agile. The root cause of this problem is a lack of trust between management and the teams. We can’t assume to erase years of command and control leadership in a waterfall model in a matter of few short iterations. It will take time and a clear commitment from all participants in this process.

For example, teams new to agile should strive for a better range of meeting sprint goals. For example, I have seen teams who constantly outperform their goals by 200% and receive a lot of attention and praise. They are in my opinion (from a planning perspective) as immature as teams underperforming by the same rate. The goal must be to have mature teams achieving a range from 90%-110% of their sprint goals. That is predictable and makes a huge difference for portfolio management because of dependencies with other projects and initiatives.

Predictability like in the example above also includes improved team efficiency through process improvement. To accomplish that, executives need to allow teams to challenge current practices and encourage change. In many case executives need to actively work with the teams through the change. Only that will lead to true agile projects, with real sustainable pace while fine-tuning the process. Improving the process over time, will also positively impact productivity which has directly linked to the project portfolio.

During the initial iterations, executives should be patient with teams finding their steady-state. It also helps if executives emphasize the importance of predicting and committing sprint goals. At the end of the day, are looking for ways to work smarter, not harder.

Executives should understand and respect the team boundary. For example it does not help the teams when team members are constantly replaced and the team size changed. The same is true for part-time team members who help out just to help with a peak during one iteration. Executives need to understand their actions in particular context switching penalties as well as penalties for working with distributed teams.

The true engine of agile process improvements are the daily stand-up’s and the retrospectives. They usually introduce change, improvement ideas, raise

AgileConnection is a TechWell community.

Through conferences, training, consulting, and online resources, TechWell helps you develop and deliver great software every day.