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May 23, 2019

The Challenges of Adopting the Agile Culture

"A little less conversation, a little more action, please" 

- Elvis Presley, “A Little Less Conversation"

Perhaps without knowing it, Elvis Presley understood the heart of the Agile culture.  A line from his hit song pleads for "a little less conversation, a little more action, please."  Maybe if The King had been present in Utah in 2001, the Agile Manifesto would include this song lyric as the document’s opening line.

We believe that Agility is action and objectivity. It’s about putting ideas (design) into practice, evaluating the results, and adjusting what is necessary.

Being agile is the opposite of being a bureaucrat. We work to deliver value instead of detailed planning


Why Do Companies Adopt Agile Culture?

Last Year - Tech Watchdog Group Dzone produced survey results that gave 5 top reasons companies want to adopt Agile.

  • Accelerate product delivery: In today’s highly connected, “speed of the internet” business model, Speed is King (sorry, Elvis). Companies of all sizes are looking to Agile development methods to allow faster iterations to bring software online, rather than waiting months - or years -- for “the big bang” rollout of traditional methods.  

  • Managing Changing Priorities: “The only constant is change” is a saying that has never been more true. Leaders must create strategies for their business that allow for flexibility, which can come in many forms: New regulation, new competition, new market opportunities, and even new ownership.  

  • Increase productivity: At the core of Agile is the notion that deploying quickly, with readiness (and ability) to modify and adapt, ultimately brings higher productivity.  Programmers are getting continuous feedback on software from the user community and refining the code in perpetuity. Meanwhile, users are able to use key, top-priority functions sooner - rather than later - reaping the benefits of automation.

  • Improve business/IT alignment:  “Alignment” has been the IT leaderships holy grail for over a decade. In years past, getting CIO’s and CTO’s “a seat at the table” was the approved method of accomplishing alignment.  What we found was that, while necessary, executive-level access was not sufficient. The real, practical alignment between business and IT comes when business priorities are continually shaped by sponsors in Agile delivered systems. Here is where the beauty of 2 week sprints really shines as a means of aligning business imperatives with IT activity.

  • Improve Quality: Like a QA team overseeing production assembly by constantly examining the goods being manufactured on the floor, the continuous feedback loops and iterations of design-code-test-deploy in Agile ferrets out hidden bugs quicker than traditional development methods.


Agile Culture as a Risk

The biggest obstacle in the adoption of Agile methods arise when companies adopt Agile practices before achieving cultural changes needed for Agile to thrive. As a consequence, conflict will arise between the new Agile practices and incompatible values or norms in the company culture.  The result: frustration, and confusion for everyone involved.

Often times software development outsourcing will be a company’s first introduction to the use of Agile and Scrum methods. Accelerance has written a lot about the need for cultural readiness to embrace software outsourcing.  Most notably, we address this in something we call the 15 Risks. Whether you are doing an all-in house development project or using outsourcing by way of Staff Augmentation or full Project Outsourcing, your company must embrace required changes to culture and “status quo” in order to successfully implement Agile culture. Here a few of the key disruptors in culture brought about by Agile:

  • Speed of change - the expectation of delivering code in a few weeks on a continuous basis is new to many organizations.  Continuous attention to the project activities by ALL stakeholders is necessary.

  • Constant collaboration - iterative change on a continuous basis means stakeholders and developers must be collaborating constantly.

  • Timeliness - with speed and constant motion, comes the responsibility for all to be timely with commitments: timely feedback on design, timely completion of code for in the sprints, timely testing and recording of detected bugs.


Don’t have an Agile culture? Use ours.

Talk to Accelerance about Outsourcing Software Development

Agile Leader - Not Project Manager

Let’s look at the role of an Agile leader. The Agile leader’s role is different than the Project Manager’s role (although in smaller teams - one person may serve both roles). The Agile Leader’s role is NOT to ensure the execution of daily meetings, but to help the team to understand the value they bring day-to-day, so that the team commits to its own timely execution. An Agile leader defends an Agile culture first and foremost. The culture is more important than tools or new trends.  The Agile Leader guides the team to understand the project goals, pursuing Agile methods to accomplish those goals. It is of no use, for example, to follow the “ceremony” of Scrum, but to be resistant to late changes requested by the client. This kind of resistance is not true Agile, but rather just going through the motions of Agile.

Need Agile development? Talk to an Expert.

Agile Leader as a Pragmatist

In addition, the Agile Leader must be a pragmatist - removing or at least mitigating the romanticized ideals around the Agile Culture - in favor of action and progress. The Agile Leader must balance democratic-thinking in the decision-making process with the time invested to reach a conclusion: “Land the Plane”, so to speak. The Agile Leader must balance the adoption of trends, and tools, with the risks of overloading the team. The Agile Leader must ensure that the development team is engaged with a commitment to deliver a product of value to the customer not just follow methods for the sake of being a methodology purist.

Need Agile development? Talk to an Expert.


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