Throughout my career I’ve seen a lot of change but I like to think I’ve thrived on it. Agile is the latest change effecting and exciting me. Still a novice, my understanding has developed to a point where I am starting to understand some of the nuances around adoption of agile at scale. In my first attempt at blogging I will share some of my reflections on agile to date. This is the first of a three part series.
Many companies are adopting agile to innovate, release market value quicker and eliminate waste. The workforce is promised empowerment and freedom whilst leaders will stop being dictatorial and start serving to remove obstacles. This sounds great, who in their right mind would not be attracted to such a place of work? However agile needs to bring cultural changes including transparency in the demonstration of work being done and honesty in the attitude towards risk. This can inevitably bring leadership closer to the work. The question is, do organisations want to really adopt agile to leverage collaboration, empowerment and innovation or is it also seen as a way to micromanage a workforce?
Not long before I started my own agile journey I remember going to a leadership conference discussing Industry 4.0 where agile featured heavily. I heard CTOs sharing their own personal stories, one in particular described feeling ‘in the dark’ at the beginning only to realise that the agile ways of working had brought about an ability to understand the status of projects like never before. This is not a bad thing in itself but can it be taken to the extreme? I recently heard a request for an elaborate roadmap in Jira, one that linked portfolio epics all the way down to story points. When asked, why this level of detail is required in a product roadmap, the response was so the Board can see what every engineer is doing. I couldn’t help but feel like the point of agile had been completely missed here? Worse than that, how would all the product teams feel who have been promised empowerment & autonomy? We shouldn’t be surprised though because a company moving from traditional project management approaches will be used to complicated gantt charts to gain confidence and the old ways can be hard to change even though the reality is a plan with that level of detail is subject to change as soon as it’s published. Conversely, I understand that in mature agile organisations, teams are allowed to have more dynamic ‘outcomes’ based roadmaps rather than complex schedules. It’s accepted that the roadmaps become less certain the further out in time they go and if the organisation really wants to know how the team are doing, they should engage in the showcases.
But changing the culture of a well established organisation is not easy and often agile transformation programmes must be run alongside the ‘BAU’ of keeping the ‘machine’ running, therefore should organisations seeking the benefits go all in, let go of the past and take the risk? Do they favour roadmaps over plans that will almost certainly change? Do they trust their teams, let the showcases do the talking? They can of course take the cautious approach, steadying the ship, tending more towards a slower transition maintaining some of their legacy ways of working in the hope of more stability but the risk, in today’s world, could be a lost opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.
Are you all in or baby steps? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below and tell me what you think and why?