Monday, April 25, 2011

The three wheels of the Agile auto rickshaw

The Agile adoption in an organization is a 3-wheeled vehicle of change.
The first wheel is the process – which for us is SCRUM. The SCRUM process establishes ceremonies and practices that enable the Agile team and stakeholders to communicate with each other for the successful implementation and delivery of a software project.

The second wheel is the energy of Agile adoption – the adopter’s mindset. Molding the traditional mindset to one that is open to the Agile way is a challenging task for the Change Agent(s). This wheel establishes a mindset where every individual Agile team member is responsible and brings to their task their best self. Mutual support and respect and a drive to succeed together, with the inspect and adapt perspective are the spokes of this wheel.

The third wheel is that of technical Agile excellence brought about by practices such as pair programming, test driven development, refactoring, continuous integration and deployment. When delivering in iterative cycles it is easy to code and test the traditional way while paying obeisance to SCRUM ceremonies and mindset. This model will simply fail in the long run unless a disciplined approach to the technical aspects of Agile is not adopted.

When I look back at the order of adoption of the three wheels – we are working in the order of process-mindset-technical. However I don’t believe that it’s the prescribed order, the order of adoption would depend on the organization’s framework and what would work best. For example if the Agile team members are highly technical and do not subscribe to the process-mindset mumbo-jumbo, you may want to begin with the technical wheel and then move in the other two wheels. Another example is if the organization is already on a path of self-managed teams, then perhaps it would make sense to start with the mindset and roll out the other wheels afterwards.

After the initial enthusiasm of adoption fades away, it’s very natural for the Agile teams to fall into old grooves, drive off the track, or practice without value. These wheels need regular lubrication to keep them moving and a shot of enthusiasm to keep them moving at optimum speeds. We are using a team of evangelists who play this role while doing their everyday jobs. Random health checks to ensure that alls well, organization of sessions, facilitation of SCRUM ceremonies for problem areas, building relationships with the Agile community at large are some of the undertakings of this team.

We roll on.

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