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SPaMCAST 446 will feature our essay on questions.  Questions are a coach and facilitator’s secret power! But, with great power comes great responsibility.  

Our second column is from Gene Hughson.  Gene and I discussed his essay Go-to People Considered Harmful originally published on his blog Form Follows Function (www.genehughson.wordpress.com).  The concept may sound counterintuitive, but it is not.

The third column is from Kim Pries, the Software Sensei.  In this installment, Kim dives into the topic of servant leadership.

Re-Read Saturday News (more…)

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Agile like cooking is about  people.

Agile, like cooking, is about people.

Over the past few weeks I have been asking friends and colleagues to formally answer the following question:

What are the top reasons you think an organization succeeds in implementing Agile?

We have already covered the top six reasons organizations succeed with Agile.

  1. Senior Management
  2. Engagement, Early Feedback (Tied)
  3. Trust, Adaptable Culture, Coaching (Tied)

The folks that participated in this survey are from a highly experienced cohort of process improvement personnel, testers or developers. Completing the top eleven success factors in the survey are the areas of process discipline, team size, capable people and appropriate training.

Process discipline reflects the team’s capability to follow and improve the organization’s standard processes. For example, if Scrum were the standard Agile project management process you would expect that the team would follow standard practices of Scrum. The team would use retrospectives to tailor that process based on data gathered through experience within the limits the organization established. Process discipline is required for a group of people to work together to solve a common problem without tripping over themselves. Without process discipline it will be difficult for team members to predict how other team members will behave, requiring a need to built in contingency.

Team size influences efficiency and effectiveness of Agile techniques. Agile teams typically have five to nine members. Team size is the sum of the entire core team: product owner, Scrum Master and the development members. Many of the collaborative techniques typically used in Agile don’t work well when the team’s size expands.  For example, large teams tend to have difficulty completing standup meetings in a reasonable period of time, which causes participants to become bored and inattentive. When team members start to check out, command and control management techniques are generally substituted for Agile techniques and principles.

Capable people are required to apply Agile processes. This was the most obvious success factor and probably the one that is least specific to Agile. Capable people are a requirement for any type of work. The combination of personal capability and engagement, an earlier success factor, both are required for Agile to prosper in an organization.

Appropriate training is required to apply Agile. Training should be provided, not only to the core team, but to all of the stakeholders that will be impacted by the team’s new behavior. Training generally needs to be nuanced. Business stakeholders will have different training and knowledge needs than IT support teams. On a cautionary note, many organizations confuse presentations with training. Training for Agile needs to embrace adult learning concepts that include an explanation and hands on practice before trainees are asked to use the material. In order to be most effective, training should be deployed just prior to time of need (just-in-time training).

Success implementing and using Agile requires that teams keep their eye on the ball both in terms of using the process and delivering value. Process discipline, team size, capable people and training all revolve around people, and it bears repeating that people are center of the Agile world.