Sunday, August 26, 2012

Does becoming Agile require Culture Change?

Recently, I have been seriously considering the question of Culture Change in relation to Agile. 

Please consider this example and decide for yourself.  Does this example require culture change.... Yes or No? 

The scenario.

An important part of many Agile frameworks is the concept of the team working on "the most valuable work" for the company or customer.  Another fundamental component is the importance of truthfulness.

You are working with a team that has discovered and acknowledges that the project they are working on will have little or no value to the company when they are finished.  When the project was conceived it made sense.  It no longer does.

The team does what they are trained to do and brings that information to their leaders.  The executives and managers, after carefully reviewing all the facts realize this is true and the project is terminated.

Praise is given and the team is moved on to the next project in the huge list of backlogged projects.

After a few cycles, iterations, sprints, cadences (depending on your preferred agile framework), the team realizes the same is true for their current project.  The project is again cancelled.

As a result of the cancellation of the two projects, several managers will not reach their department objectives for the year and therefore will lose bonus money.

End of Scenario.

Is the team successful?

Is the team successful from an Agile perspective?

If this happened in your organization, what would happen?

What needs to happen to allow the team to do valuable work?

Is a Project Management group being rewarded for finishing projects without consideration for corporate value of the projects?

Are teams rewarded for acting with integrity?

Are managers and executives rewarded for acting with integrity?

Are teams rewarded based on achieving results?

What if those results are no longer appropriate?

Are teams rewarded based on learning and improved capacity to handle future work?

In your own opinion, if the answer to these questions doesn't match your ideal, do you think that you will need to change culture to achieve your perfect answer?

More importantly, do you feel that your corporation wants to adjust what you have discovered? Why? Why not?

I personally think we need to consider this type of situation when deciding if becoming Agile requires culture change or not.  

I put this out there as a question to ask yourself for your own environment and reality.

Happy pondering.

by Mike Caspar

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Information Radiators and the Vogons!

I recently had an interesting discussion with someone while trying to go over the difference between an information radiator and an information refrigerator in an Agile context.

Providing visible and public information to the stakeholders and the company is an important part of Scrum, OpenAgile, or your Agile Framework of choice.

We were discussing the fact that their system where everybody diligently enters all their status updates, burn-down info, obstacles, and so on isn't seen by the Stakeholders or the rest of the company.  The information doesn't serve the intended needs because the stakeholders use a different system to receive updated information.

Then, it came to me.... Think about The Vogons!

In the book, "The Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy", the Vogons are clearing a path through space and destroy Earth to make way for an intergallactic freeway.  Arthur Dent (the human in the story) is outraged that there was no warning before his planet was destroyed.

The response from the Vogon Commander is something along the lines of ..  "It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in the planning department in the basement."

The Vogon commander implies that the information was communicated and that it was not the Vogon's fault if Earth didn't do anything with the information.

Make sure you are not a Vogon.  

Just because you post information into a Wiki, Tracker or electronic tool does not mean you are radiating information.

You may be putting information in the system in a format your group can retrieve or see, but that does not mean it is reaching your stakeholders.

Consider letting your stakeholders know what you can provide and then ask them what will help them easily see it.

Mike Caspar

OpenAgile -
Vogons - Hitchkiker's Guide to the Galaxy