Agile Adoption Advice

In discussions about different methods and techniques it is tempting to focus on how the new method will support our ability to do things the way we’ve done them in the past. We are drawn to what we know best.

I recently had a conversation about Agile methods with a senior IT executive who has decades of experience in the industry. He said, “I know how to evaluate whether a waterfall project is on track by evaluating the initial project plan, the development artifacts, and whether or not the critical path tasks are being completed on time. But I can’t see how to evaluate whether an Agile project is on track.” I pointed out that effective Agile approaches result in the continuous delivery of production-quality, working features that customers have the opportunity to review and accept, suggesting that customer satisfaction is a better way of evaluating project status. We reflected on past projects that went according to plan but failed to delight customers versus projects that deviated from their plans and were ultimately considered big successes. He acknowledged that traditional project-tracking methods might be diverting his attention from the real problem, satisfying the actual needs of the customer community rather than rigidly following a plan.

Agile adoptions tend to fail when the adopters “cherry-pick” the easy practices and ignore the hard ones. Efforts to justify ignoring hard practices include arguments like “We have a tight timeline and don’t have time to learn that right now” or “Our situation is unique and that practice won’t work for us.” There is no mandate to adopt all of the recommended practices at once, or even to adopt all of them. However, as your team wrestles with whether or not to adopt a practice, consider the following questions: 
* Will the goals of delivering customer value early and responding to change be better served if we adopt this practice?
* Will our team and our project be better off in the long run if we adopt this practice?
* Will the cost of adopting this practice be justified by its benefits?
* And how long will that return on investment take?

These questions will help your team keep its focus on the real problem rather than on reasons to ignore good practices. Also consider these questions as you roll out new practices over time. A particular practice may be valuable to implement, but others might need to be implemented first.

Source: Agile Analytics, Ken Collier, Addison-Wesley, 314 pages, IBSN 978-0-321-50481-4

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