Posts Tagged With: Change management

Gantt charts still have a place in the agile-verse!

Those of you who have followed me for a while will know that I value pragmatism over absolutism when it comes to delivery practices, tools and techniques. Pick the right tool for the right job should be a guiding principle followed by all project teams.

Easier said than done!

It is difficult when enterprise standards dictate a fixed tool set, but it is even more challenging when a company is undergoing a fundamental transformation of its delivery practices. When adopting new delivery frameworks it is tempting to embrace the bright, shiny new tools while branding those of the previous delivery approach as obsolete, but if we understand the context in which their usage will still add value we should still find a home for them in our toolboxes.

A good example of this is the use of Gantt charts by teams who are following an adaptive or agile delivery life cycle.

Although Gantt charts have been around since the early 1900’s, just as with people, age is not negatively correlated to value. Tools such as burn-up charts provide an objective means of evaluating progress towards completing a release, but it is rare outside of pure product development contexts to find projects where a traditional representation of a schedule wouldn’t also provide some incremental benefits.

This need could arise from any of the following causes:

  • Complicated dependencies between the outputs from different teams
  • Work streams that are delivered using traditional, deterministic life cycles
  • Activities performed by supporting roles working outside of the agile teams

The project team will want to define the best way to combine the use of traditional and agile scheduling tools to avoid information duplication and inconsistency. Agile teams can continue to use their default tools, but traditional scheduling tools can be used to track other work which is not captured in the backlog yet still needs to be completed for project success. If there is a need to have an overall integrated project schedule, the agile teams’ sprints can be shown as a series of sequential fixed duration activities without the need to decompose those to any lower level. By reviewing burn-up charts, the exact number of such sequential activities can be adjusted to reflect accurate completion dates.

With significant change, there is a greater likelihood of success if you preserve valuable current practices when introducing new ones.

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Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Are your agile transformation blockers like agents in The Matrix?

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.

 

Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Maintain a sense of change urgency through agility

According to John Kotter’s model for leading change, the first step to overcoming inertia requires us to instill a sense of true urgency in those we need to support, implement and sustain the change. While it is ideal if this urgency is tied to What’s In It For Me, at a minimum, we all want proof that committing our time and political influence to a particular initiative at this very moment is cheaper than the cost of doing nothing.

But the steps in Kotter’s model, like PMBOK processes, are not to be followed in a purely sequential manner. 

Significant organization transformations usually require a year or more to become “the new normal” and we are only fooling ourselves if we assume that those stakeholders who were focused and motivated to champion our initiative in its early days will continue to remain so for the long haul. Executives and mid-level managers are constantly juggling competing priorities and as long as it appears that a change initiative is not on fire, their attention spans are likely to be shorter than that of a goldfish.

As such, we need to iterate back to instilling that sense of true urgency at regular intervals. The specific cadence varies based on the complexity and duration of a transformation. Fan the flames too rarely and the spark will be extinguished. Do it too often and you’ll be treated like the boy who cried “Wolf!”.

But is reminding stakeholders that they need to support us enough to gain this support? Maintaining focus requires quid pro quo otherwise we are likely to hear “What have you done for me lately?” 

This is why regardless of the nature of a transformation we need to inject agility into its delivery. We can follow adapted versions of key Manifesto principles such as:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy our stakeholders through early and continuous delivery of business value
  • Deliver business value frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to implement change more effectively, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly
  • Change champions and the team must work together frequently throughout the transformation

Newton’s first law: An object at rest remains at rest, or if in motion, remains in motion at a constant velocity unless acted on by a net external force.

 

 

Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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