The Organization Must Change Before Going Agile: An Interview with John Holmes and David Nielson


In this interview John Holmes and David Nielson talk about their upcoming presentation, what it takes for your organization to really go agile (and to stick with it), the role of technology in organizational changes, and the importance of marrying your agile and Scrum with change management.

John Holmes and David Nielson will be presenting a presentation titled "The Organization Must Change Before Going Agile" at the Agile Development Conference and Better Software Conference West 2014, which will take place June 1–6, 2014.


About "The Organization Must Change Before Going Agile":

Agile and Scrum have been wildly successful in many organizations, yet we still see significant failures within those same organizations when attempting to introduce agile to new teams. Some organizations never realize the benefits and improvements that agile offers. When beginning a physical exercise program, we are directed to consult our physician before beginning new physical activity. So, before you attempt your migration from traditional methods to agile and Scrum, you should evaluate your organization for its willingness and ability to adapt to the inevitable organizational changes. Otherwise, your agile deployment may be impossible from the outset. John Holmes and David Nielsen assist those who are embarking on a new transition or those who want to understand why their current deployment is not going as planned. To increase your ability to transition to agile, John and David share a streamlined, reliable, and successful implementation framework that is practical, repeatable, and behavior-based.


Cameron Philipp-Edmonds: Today we have John Holmes and David Nielson and they'll be speaking at the Agile Development Conference and Better Software Conference West 2014, which is June 1 through June 6. They will be giving a presentation titled, "The Organization Must Change Before Going Agile."

To give a little background, John Holmes is the lead trainer and agile/Scrum coach for a large commercial defense aerospace company that has successfully adopted the principles and practices of agile and Scrum globally. As a certified ScrumMaster, product owner and skilled agile framework consultant, John has taught more than 4000 colleagues a tailored lean-agile curriculum and has worked as a lean-agile consultant, coach, and advisor.

David Nielson brings more than three decades of corporate Fortune 500 private consulting experience and organizational change management, leadership development, and training. David has helped guide large scale change initiatives and business strategy driven by ERP, mergers, restructuring, and the need for cultural change. He has been a frequent speaker at PMI, Project World, Chief Executive Network, and Management Resources Association.

Did we catch everything guys?

John Holmes: Sounds good.

David Nielson: Yes.

Cameron: Since you guys are doing a session titled "The Organization Must Change Before Going Agile" which covers the possible roadblocks of agile and readying yourself and your company for an agile transition, I'd like to ask some related questions. First question is what are some common reasons for the transition to agile and Scrum to fail?

David Nielson: John, I'll let you take that one.

John Holmes: I wouldn't say its necessarily common reasons; it's very similar to what are the reasons that people want to do agile in the first place. It really depends on the organization; it depends on what their goals are. Some of the prevalent reasons that are out there, sometimes lack of support from executive levels or management levels.

Sometimes we don't really sell the team on the need to do agile. I had a recent group that we were working with for 6 months. We went it to do some agile triage, and their feedback to us was "no one really ever told us why we were doing this," and the reason that they were doing it was to fend off re-compete or competition from other software and sustainment vendors. There are a number of reasons that it occurs.

The most powerful way to prevent it is to actually have some type of change management protocol or methodology that you go into ahead of time to review the organization and see if they are ready to go. It's very similar to before you start an exercise regimen, consult your physician. Sometimes having some inside knowledge about the organization can really fend off some of these reasons that we failed to deploy agile properly.

Cameron: Is there anything specific when a company takes a step back to reflect on its health and its ability to take on agile that they should be looking for?


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