Saturday, 24 May 2014

Do You Need an Agile Coach to Become Agile? [2014-05-13]

How to Introduce Agile Processes and Practices Without an Agile Coach

We met in the smart new Ordnance Survey HQ in Southampton
Here are my thoughts on the second of the three topics discussed at the May 2014 Agile South Coast meet up in Southampton. Three groups of 5-7 discussed this separately, and spent a few minutes presenting conclusions back to the full group at the end of the evening.

It was another topic suggested in advance via the Agile South Coast LinkedIn Discussion Group.

How could you introduce agile to your organization without an Agile Coach or agile experience in the organization? (Give specific examples.)
Although it would be interesting to understand why the question says that there is no Agile Coach, we couldn't get clarification. In my discussion group there was a response that the obvious solution was to get an Agile Coach :)

If we admit defeat on that (perhaps if the upfront cost is too big), at least one person in the organization is going to need to become an Agile Coach. And I suppose we have to rule out paid training for that person or people too! That was pretty much my first experience introducing agile processes in to the software development team inside a growing Enterprise Content Management company. It was not supported by any (paid) Agile Coaching or consultancy, and it was a difficult experience!

Looking back, I maybe didn't realise that I would need to become an "Agile Coach", I thought that I could just tell my colleagues about some cool new practices that I'd learned about, and off we would go. Another unexpected challenge was not realising that others in the business were learning about Agile and looking to reorganize us developers - a little lack of communication leading to friction there.

So with the benefit of the insight of the Agile South Coast participants, here are our suggestions for introducing Agile to an organization without paying for an external Agile Coach:
  • Find the people in the organization who are interested in change, or becoming agile, and discuss what you want to achieve
    • Identify your start point
    • Identify where you want to be (clear goals)
    • How broad and deep is the organizational buy-in?
  • Find people who will become the agile coaches, people capable of coaching and with time to research and understand the challenges and approaches
    • Self-aware, servant-leaders
    • Keep discussing what you find, and relate it to your own context
    • Consider your organizational culture
      • Delegation is good
      • Remove negative influences
  • Just do it!
    • Find on-line resources, great content is free on YouTube and elsewhere
      • The short Agile Manifesto gives you 4 values and 12 principles to judge your process by
      • The free 13 page Scrum Guide pdf - Scrum is a very common starting point, and many people can't distinguish Scrum and Agile - it's helpful to know what Scrum is
      • I keep a little YouTube playlist of some of the Agile Process presentations that I've found useful - some really excellent content in there!
    • Read some of the great books on Agile and related processes and practices
      • I got great value from the book 'Agile Estimating and Planning' by Mike Cohn; also 'Agile Retrospectives' by Esther Derby, but there are many other great books and in a field of continuous improvement, more great ideas being shared constantly
    • Pilot project or team as champions or a "beacon"
    • Extreme Programming (XP) Practices
      • Co-location
    • Introduce ideas through games: XP Game; Lean Game
    • Make changes in small steps
      • Kanban process improvement ideas: start from what you have and make small evolutionary changes
If you think we missed anything (or I didn't pull out any particular idea from the session), let me know in the comments. Thank for your time reading this, and thank you to everyone who comes and shares their views, knowledge and experience at our Agile South Coast meetups!

Here are the three flip charts created by each of the groups on the night...

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