Wednesday, February 12, 2014

An Open Letter To Executives Leading Agile Transformations

Thanks to the Man from Mars, I saw this wonderful open letter written by Brian Irwin.  In it, he lists 10 pieces of advice for executives who are leading the introduction of Agile within their organization.  I think all of his points are excellent (and wish I'd seen them back in 2005 when we were preparing to go Agile at TV Works Canada) but I think two of them are especially important and relevant, based on what I've seen over the past 9 years:

5. Completely drop discussions of "resource allocation" and speak only of "team availability."

In my role as Agile consultant, I've repeatedly seen organizations make the mistake of believing that they can slice resources up into neat little sections, dedicating person A to project X at 30%, project Y at 30% and project Z at 40%, for example.  Despite all kinds of research showing the overwhelming cost to productivity imposed by multitasking, management types continue to behave as if resource allocations like that will somehow prove effective.  And even beyond that issue, there's also problems with team unity and priority-setting that are introduced when individuals are split over multiple fronts in that manner.

7. Give high praise for "complete" features only.

This point really speaks to me.  When I've gone into various organizations to do my Agile 101 training session, one of the course concepts that often meets with at least some resistance from both management and team members is the "done done done" principle that I preach.  This is the idea that there are only two % values that can be assigned to a feature: 0% and 100%.  I really try to drive home the point that saying a feature is "75% complete" is absolutely ludicrous, for the simple reason that you never know how much more work is involved until it's finished.  As an example of why this is true, consider how often the testing phase of a feature extends on and on and on, as more and more bugs are found as more and more fixes are made.  For that reason, at TV Works Canada we hit upon the notion of insisting that features be "done done done" (nothing at all left to do, not even documentation or last little tweaks) in order for that deliverable to be considered complete within the iteration.

Anyway, it's a very good article that I encourage anyone involved with Agile to read.   

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