Making decisions is exhausting. It involves perception and analysis, and most of all: taking responsibility.
Mental load and the worry cache, Seth Godin, June 15, 2017

In most organizations, software development and maintenance is not a solitary activity.  Even a relatively simple enhancement require the involvement of multiple roles to identify, translate and implement an idea.  Teams are the tool used to effectively gather and coordinate all the needed roles in one place. While it is easy to perceive the team as a monolithic unit, every individual on a team is a decision-making machine.  Each person will have a different tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity which will affect how they make decisions. (more…)

Adaptable culture, not adaptable hair...

Adaptable culture, not adaptable hair…

So far we have discussed three of the top factors for successful Agile implementations:

  1. Senior Management
  2. (Tied) Engagement and Early Feedback

Tied for fourth place in the list of success factors are trust, adaptable culture and coaching.

Trust was one of surprises on the list. Trust, in this situation, means that all of the players needed to deliver value, including the team, stakeholders and management, should exhibit predictable behavior. From the team’s perspective there needs to be trust that they won’t be held to other process standards to judge how they deliver if they adopt Agile processes. From a stakeholder and management perspective there needs to be trust that a team will live up to the commitments they make.

An adaptable culture reflects an organization’s ability to make and accept change.  I had expected this to be higher on the list.  Implementing Agile generally requires that an organization makes a substantial change to how people are managed and how work is delivered.  Those changes typically impact not only the project team, but also the business departments served by the project. Organizations that do not adopt to change well rarely make a jump into Agile painlessly. Organizations that have problems adapting will need to spend significantly more effort on organizational change management.

Coaches help teams, stakeholders and other leaders within an organization learn how to be Agile. Being Agile requires some combination of knowing specific techniques and embracing a set of organizational principles. Even in more mature Agile organizations, coaches bring new ideas to the table, different perspectives and a shot of energy. That shot of energy is important to implementing Agile and then for holding on to those new behaviors until they become muscle memory.

Change in organizations is rarely easy. Those being asked to change very rarely perceive change being for the better, which makes trust very difficult. Adopting Agile requires building trust between teams, the business and IT management and vice versa. Coaching is a powerful tool to help even adaptable organizations build trust and embrace Agile as a mechanism to deliver value and as a set of principles for managing work.