Agile transformations are susceptible to a variety of impediments but sometimes these hurdles are not as high as we believe them to be.
In almost any company other than a startup, some or all of the following tangible blockers will not only be present at the beginning of the journey, they may continue to stymie teams years into their transformation.
- The inability to dedicate primary roles (e.g. Product Owners, Agile Leads) to a single value stream
- Geographic dispersion and distribution of team members
- Legacy integration requirements which throttle the pace of continuous integration or continuous delivery
- Complex compliance requirements
- Onerous and inefficient procurement policies
- Labor contracts or other constraints on developing generalizing specialists
- The lack of comprehensive automated test suites or similar accelerators
- Delivery and control partners who cannot be influenced to transform their delivery models
Are these likely to disappear quickly? Not likely. Some such as technical debt or legacy integrations can be eliminated over time with persistence and sustained investment but others are a natural by-product of a company’s industry, the free market or globalization.
So when I hear teams complaining about these blockers during their daily stand-ups or in their retrospectives I recall Morpheus’s exchange with Neo at the beginning of The Matrix.
Morpheus: To your left there is a window: open it… use the scaffold to get to the roof.
Neo: No way. No way. This is crazy.
Morpheus: There are two ways out of that building: one is that scaffold, the other is in their custody. You take a chance either way: I leave it to you.
Neo’s fears and doubts are more crippling than the lack of a dumpster below his office building which he could jump into or a fire escape ladder close at hand to get to the roof.
As the movie progresses, Neo continues to struggle with overcoming these constraints and Morpheus continues to coach him: You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.
But Morpheus, like agile coaches, can only show the way.
Teams, like Neo must walk the path themselves. Once Neo understands the Matrix for what it is and embraces his place in it, his perception of limitations including agents evolves such that he no longer perceives them as great a threat as he and others make them out to be.
Once teams successfully adopt the right mindset, they can respect the impact of organizational blockers but continue to discover ways of being agile.