The Agile Executive

Making Agile Work

Archive for July 2009

From ad hoc to Agile

with 2 comments

Darren Shipp made an astute observation during the recent Agile Success Tour event in Atlanta:

The problem is not transitioning from Waterfall to Agile. The real problem is transitioning from ad hoc to Agile.

This observation by Darren really resonates with me. Nowadays the preferred solution to various software engineering problems seems to be Agile. Latching to Agile, however, does not necessarily indicate that the software method in use has failed. Rather, it often indicates the lack of an appropriate software method/process.

Hence, my invariable counsel to folks who are about to embark on an Agile rollout: start by recording the state of affairs before the Agile rollout. For example, capture your productivity metrics for the period prior to training your teams in Agile. For better or worse, this is your true baseline.

Written by israelgat

July 9, 2009 at 7:46 am

Posted in Starting Agile

Tagged with ,

The Tool is the Method

with 18 comments

In a recent post in dev2ops, Damon Edwards examines the role tools often play in the context of a desired cultural change. To quote Damon:

Did you ever notice that our first inclination is to reach for a tool when we want to change something? What we always seem to forget is that web operations, as a discipline, is only partially about technology.

Damon’s states the following view on the right balance to be struck:

The success of your web operations depends more on the processes and culture your people work within than it does on any specific tooling choices… We see this repeatedly in our consulting business. Time after time we are called in to do a specific automation project and wind up spending the bulk of the effort as counselors and coaches helping the organization make the cultural shift that was the real intention of the automation project.

While I am in full agreement with Damon on the phenomenon, I would like to highlight two nuances that in many cases make the tool is the method an effective approach to rolling Agile:

  1. The rise of professional procurers in Global 2000 companies (see Selling is Dead) changes transactional aspects of Agile engagements. Professional procurers typically focus on negotiating the best possible deal for the tool(s). Moreover, they tend to determine the preferred tool(s) in the early stages of negotiating the engagement.
  2. Tools might not change culture, but they can and often do change behavior. Think, for example,  about the way numerous folks use Twitter. What starts as “having a little bit of fun” often leads to major changes in the way one collects, stores, analyzes and assimilates information. The changes happen not due to an explicit intention to change, but as part of “playing” with Twitter.

Between these two nuances, a typical progression for an enterprise level Agile initiative tends to be as follows:

  • A tool is chosen
  • Teams start using the tool
  • The tool induces behavioral changes
  • These behavioral changes prevail, overshadowing cultural change initiatives

Hence, in many circumstances the tool indeed is the method. The chosen tool becomes a factor of the first order in determining not “only” how Agile (or any other software method) will be practiced, but what mindset will evolve in the course of the rollout.

See the presentation entitled  Four Principles, Four Cultures, One Mirror for additional details on the subject. A short summary of the presentation is given here. Related views are summarized by InfoQ here.

Written by israelgat

July 8, 2009 at 5:56 am

Between Agile and ITIL

with 4 comments

You do not need to be an expert in Value Stream Mapping to appreciate the power of speeding up deployment to match the pace of Agile development. By aligning development with deployment, you streamline “production” with “consumption.” The rationale for so doing is aptly captured in the first bullet of the Declaration of Interdependence:

We increase return on investment by making continuous flow of value our focus.

As pointed out in previous posts in this blog, Flickr and IMVU seem to be doing an exceptionally fine job streamlining the flow of value: every thirty minutes and every nine minutes respectively. A recent presentation in Velocity 2009 by John Allpsaw and John Hammond adds color how development and operations at Flickr cooperate to accomplish “10+ deploys per day.”

What does such fast pace mean to the business? In a nutshell, much of the guess work as to what features are really needed is eliminated when you develop, deploy and collect customer feedback in ultra fast manner. Consequently, the company’s business design is likely to be transformed. Click here, here, and here for more detailed discussions how the business design gets transformed.

Michael Cote, Andrew Shafer and I have been pondering  about aligning development and operations for quite sometime. On the one hand, we are painfully aware of the traditional desire to minimize change in IT operations. On the other hand, we are of the opinion Agile principles are quite applicable to operations. We often wonder whether the obstacles between Agile and ITIL are real or imaginary. We actually believe the {development –> operations} theme is an important instantiation of Dean Leffingwell‘s recent thoughts about applying Agile/Lean principles to other knowledge work.

The three of us – Michael, Andrew and I – decided to do a few podcasts to explore what stands between Agile and ITIL. The first of these podcasts will be published this month (July 2009).

Stay tuned…

Written by israelgat

July 7, 2009 at 7:19 am

Only 10%

leave a comment »

Readers of the posts Customer Intimacy and Enterprise Software Innovator’s Dilemma might recall two observations made in this blog:

  • The dissatisfactory state of affairs in enterprise software as characterized by Crawford and Mathews in their description of Consumer Underworld relationship between vendor and customer:

Ignore my needs… Be inconsistent, unclear, or  misleading in your pricing… Offer me poor quality merchandise and services that I can’t use… Give me a reason to tell my friends and relatives to stay away…

Open Source Software is becoming ”good enough”. It has already met or will soon be meeting the minimum requirements of the enterprise customer. By  so doing, Open Source Software will steadily gain ground from traditional enterprise software vendors

In a Viewpoint published in the July 2 issue of BusinessWeek,  former Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff cites the following statistics:

…  only 10% of Americans now saying they trust large corporations, according to the Apr. 8 edition of the Financial Trust Index. Some 77% of Americans say they refuse to buy products or services from a company they distrust, according to the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer. [Highlights by IG].

The statistics given by Zuboff link the two observations cited above. One might argue that Crawford, Mathews and Zuboff deal primarily with consumer behavior, not with procurement of enterprise software. True that this argument might be, I sincerely doubt that the two worlds can be kept apart. At least some of  the folks who license and use enterprise software must be represented in the data given by Zuboff and are likely to act accordingly in their corporate roles. Moreover, her statistics seem to be quite consistent with the recent warning to high-tech issued by Christensen:

If you’re curious to know what lies in store for Seattle and Silicon Valley, spend a day walking around Detroit with the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Continuous Improvement is Always the Glue

leave a comment »

Corey Ladas makes an interesting observation in Scrumban, pp. 73:

Continuous improvement is always the glue that binds the social contract of the lean organization. Everybody is expected to improve, at all times.

Corey’s observation is quite relevant to the commitment proposed in the posts A Social Contract for Agile and Addition to the Social Contract:

Commit to invest in Agile training ; apply the training to employees who  might be affected by forthcoming layoffs just as you apply it to those likely to be kept with the company. 

The commitment discussed in these posts is an ingredient of the glue Corey writes about.

Written by israelgat

July 1, 2009 at 9:39 pm