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


John Holmes: When I first came into agile and Scrum, I heard of iteration zero, and I used to hate that because it sounded like it only happened once. We re-named it pre-planning and we can invoke pre-planning any time that we go, so, as you go into changing your culture and your environment into more of an agile and Scrum environment, you have to do some pre-planning, you have to do some evaluation of the people that you're working with. You might do it through surveys. You might do it through individual interviews. You might just get their opinion on agile and Scrum, but you definitely want to get them involved early, get their buy-in, get some working agreements, and then decide, have a plan to go forward.

Each one of these plans has to be tailored to the people who you're working with. Some are just ready to go. I had one program that was so ready to go, within 30 days after unleashing agile and allowing them to formally do it. They produced some numbers that were just unheard of and unseen, both in our company and to our customers.

We've had other teams that have taken 3, 4, 5, 6 months to get there. Each one has to be treated a little differently, and there needs to be on-going coaching, training, support in the review of the changed plan. How is it working? What should we do? It's not about just bringing in David or myself up front. It's about an on-going evaluation, an on-going survey of the team that says how are we doing and what do we need to do better?

Cameron: Is there anything else you guys would like to say to the delegates of Agile Development Conference and Better Software Conference West 2014 before they attend the conference and before they attend your presentation?

David Nielson: I would just say we hope that as many people as possible can attend. We are going to have a great, exciting, dynamic session. It's very interactive. Both John and I are of the style that it's not nearly as interesting to just load people into a room and have someone talk at them. We want to get people involved; it's going to be very interactive. We're going to have fun with this, so we encourage everyone to be there and we look forward to seeing everybody.

John Holmes: David and I really want to, one of the things we talked about, way back when, when I went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first two minutes of the movie were probably the most exciting two minutes I've ever seen in a movie, and that's what we're trying to do in this session, to get people excited about it, start talking about some of the issues, start talking about some of the problems, and have people leave with some potential solutions, based on what their needs are.

We are really going to be doing some agile-like things, using Post-It Notes and some surveys. The hardest part was to cram it in to less than a two-hour session, but we're looking forward to it. Las Vegas is an exciting place to be. This is my favorite conference out of all the conferences because of the people that come to this conference, so we're really looking forward to it.

Cameron: Thank you so much. Once again, this was John Holmes and David Nielson, and they will be speaking at the Agile Development Conference and Better Software Conference West 2014, and their presentation is titled "The Organization Must Change Before Going to Agile." Thank you so much, John and David.

John Holmes: Thank you.

David Nielson: Thank you.


John HolmesJohn 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 Scaled Agile Framework Consultant, John has taught more than 4,000 colleagues a tailored lean-agile curriculum and has worked as a lean-agile consultant, coach, and adviser.



David NielsonDavid Nielson brings more than three decades of corporate, Fortune 500, and private consulting experience in 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.



Podcast Music: "Han Solo" (Captain Stu) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

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