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Archive for the ‘Scaling Agile’ Category

Persona of the Agile Team

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Many of us encountered situations in which the spread of Agile in an organization came to a halt. It was quite successful at the project level, but did not spread to the product line; it worked well for the product line, but did not get accepted by the business unit; or, it proved itself in the business unit, but success did not lead to adoption at the enterprise level.

I recently read The Living Company by Arie de Geus. His perspective is that a company has a persona. To quote de Geus:

… as a living entity, a company is always insecure, never stable, always subject to shifting relationships between the company and the outside world.

Furthermore, de Geus suggests a company has its own ladder of personae: Individual –> Team –> Work Group –> Division –> Company –> Corporation –> Society. According to de Geus, the persona of an organizational entity satisfies the criteria (cited by William Stern) for a living persona. Like live human beings, organizational entities:

… must find their place in the world; they must develop a sense of relationship between their own persona’s ethical priorities and the values in the surrounding world…. The Persona has an influence on the world around it as an example, a “role model,” but it can never equalize the world’s view with its own.

If you accepted this premise, implications with respect to spreading Agile are intriguing.  A mismatch between the involved organizational personae might be the obstacle to broader acceptance of Agile. The mismatch might be related to Agile. Or, it could equally well be unrelated. For example, it might revolve around the need of one organizational entity or another to self-preserve itself.

I find it fascinating that Ken Schwaber has actually discussed Agile success and failure along somewhat similar lines, as follows:

I estimate that 75% of those organizations using Scrum will not succeed in getting the benefits that they hope for from it… The intention of Scrum is to make [their dysfunctions] transparent so the organization can fix them. Unfortunately, many organizations change Scrum to accommodate the inadequacies or dysfunctions instead of solving them. [AgileCollab interview of February 19, 2008]

The corollary from the observations of Stern, de Geus and Schwaber might seem counter-intuitive. If the spread of Agile in your company has stalled, providing qualitative and quantitative data on the benefits of Agile might not be the best way to win over support for broader adoption. Instead of hard sell of Agile benefits, focus on cross-organizational dynamics, pathologies and development.


Written by israelgat

April 12, 2009 at 8:43 pm

“More Than One Way to Roll-Out Agile”

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Ryan posted part I of the debate between Erik Huddleston (Inovis), Jack Yang (Homeaway) and me on the subject of Agile roll-out strategies. The heart of the debate is team-by-team versus all-in. To paraphrase Robert Graves, the debate is true and the telling is frank. Highly recommended!

Part II and Part III have been  posted [IG; 4/11/2009]

Written by israelgat

March 11, 2009 at 8:37 pm

How to Viral-Spread Agile on a Large Scale

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In last week’s Agile Austin Distinguished Speaker Series, Sue Mckinney and Pollyanna Pixton presented the Agile/Lean work they carry out at IBM. Their approach to making Agile of interest to 25,000 employees in IBM’s Software Group stands in nice contrast to the classic quip “I am from Corporate; I am here to help you.” As a matter of fact, during her presentation Sue recounted how as a developer she disliked edicts that came from above when they did not suit context and reality in the trenches.

Sue’s presentation is available here. It deserves thorough reading by anyone who is concerned with scale and scope issues in Agile roll-outs. Here are some of the more interesting points:

  • The initial  impetus to go Agile was time-to-market imperatives
  • The Development Transformation program which Sue drives at IBM provides a menu of thirteen Agile/Lean best practices a development team can choose from.
  • The program puts an emphasis on adaptive planning
  • The program stresses the importance of sharing both code and best practices
  • An expanded community of 40,000 IBM’ers and >100 customers are part of the program
  • Geographically distributed teams are considered the norm at IBM (given the company’s M&A strategy); Agile practices must take this reality into account

Interestingly, in the series of workshops she delivered at IBM, Pollyanna did not even speak about Agile! Instead, she talked about the various aspects of collaboration and team dynamics. You can get a good sense of the themes Pollyanna covered at IBM  in her presentation on Collaboration and Collaborative Leadership in the Experience section of the Accelinnova web site.  See Jean Tabaka’s note and Michael Cote’s note for complementary opinions  on collaboration, organizational dysfunction and Agile.

 Sue and Pollyanna are continuing their Agile roll-out work at IBM. Stay tuned….

Written by israelgat

February 15, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Scaling Agility: From 0 to 1000

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Walter Bodwell delivered an excellent presentation on the subject in Agile Austin last night. The presentation is quite unique in seeing both the “forest” and the “trees”. Walter addresses the operational day-to-day aspects of Scrum in the trenches in parallel with providing insights on the roll-out at the executive level. Highly recommended!

Written by israelgat

February 4, 2009 at 9:25 am