Jumping into the Agile Pool. Head First or Feet First?

With any decision that impacts an organization’s operation the decision to move from one development methodology to another is never easy. Within most organizations the decision to change standard operating procedures is not one to be taken lightly, and in this the decision to move to an Agile Environment is no different. With the success and attention that Agile has garnered as of late the decision to become an Agile organization may not be the problem, it is the “how” associated with that decision that often times is the most daunting. Changing from one methodology such as Waterfall to Agile, Scrum, Lean, or any variation of Agile is often times looked upon as a revolutionary change for how an organization conducts its business. The expected turmoil due to our natural resistance to change can make moving towards Agile appear to be a monumental task. With that in mind moving to Agile is not as onerous as one might expect. It can be done quickly and painlessly so long as proper planning as to how the move will be made comes first.

Most organizations begin by using a pilot type approach. A small team is usually used to initiate the pilot before it is rolled out to the entire organization. This type approach usually involves a team of experienced personnel and the thought leaders from the Development Team. It also tends to be less stressful, guarantees early wins for the new process, and allows for refinements to be made before transitioning the organization as a whole. Cultures that accept change but do not handle large tumultuous change without first testing, reviewing, and refining things often times benefit from this approach most.

Going “All In” is, as one might expect, a much more radical approach for any organization. Whether it be Agile, Waterfall, Lean, or any combination of approaches, an All In approach can be very effective. All in approaches are most often used if the organization finds itself on either end of the “Acceptance to Change” spectrum. Organizations with a low resistance to change most often chose to go All In as it proves to be faster, more efficient, has a lower associated cost, and allows the organization to get up to speed faster. The same All In approach can also be used in organizations with an extremely high resistance to change. Just as Cortez burned his ships to demonstrate to his men that there was no turning back, an All in approach may be needed to show overly reluctant and resistant members the necessity for them to buy-in and drive the new development system to success. This approach may cause a high amount of initial turmoil with resistant team members but it helps ensure the initial stress will be over sooner rather than later. An All In approach may also help to prevent less than full effort outside the pilot team from derailing your initiative before it starts.

In moving to Agile there is no right or wrong way to go about executing change, only expectable and/or tolerable ways agreed upon by you and your organization. In most cases successful adoption of Agile starts with management’s buy-in and choosing the correct approach for your organization through unbiased analysis of your organization, its culture, and the true reasoning facilitating the desire to move to Agile.

About the Author:
Mark Townsend is a Senior Business Analyst with OneSpring LLC (www.onespring.net) in Atlanta Georgia. Mark has over 15 years of experience in Process Design, Business Analysis, Product Development, and System Implementation.

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