Keep Calm and AGILE On




Hello World. You should have known by now which industry I belong to. Yes, IT it is, an industry which has seen a remarkable and stupendous development within a relatively short time. Swiftness and Adaptability are the two mantras for any IT associate and especially for one from the IT services side. Various Global Clients, Numerous Domains, Hundreds and Thousands of Systems, Applications, Tools, Languages, Processes etc, and the industry surprises the employee (and the employers of course) every now and then. I am no exception to this and I wanted to write on something that has impacted me a lot in recent times. AGILE, it’s not just a methodology but something that require a complete mind-set change for any typical WATERFALL person.

Let me be completely honest with you,no matter how many training the employee attends on AGILE or how many certifications he/she does, when it comes to delivering something in AGILE, they struggle on the floor. I developed a curiosity on the million dollar question WHY DELIVERY FAILED? Many people cited AGILE as the reason but to me AGILE didn’t fail instead it’s the mind block of people adapting AGILE. I then started digging deep into the various root causes by a sheer sampling of surveys that I did with the various so called AGILE deliverers. The next three short paragraphs are my findings on reality check and suggestions that might help the team to deliver effectively on AGILE.

Mind-set – My mom was reluctant to enter an ATM as she was afraid of technology and her fear of accepting the same. But today, she does an online money transfer with ease. How? Simply because she accepted and believed that technology is the way going forward and above all, she did some mistakes and learnt from that. This is the backbone principle of AGILE. Almost all AGILE projects end in a schedule slippage by the end of first sprint and the lessons learnt there pave way for the team to progress and excel incrementally during further sprints. But the management puts pressure on this first schedule slippage. The pressure is transferred from top to bottom which send chills down the spine of every team member. They start hating AGILE. Instead of the beginning, it’s the End here. First thing to be changed is this.

Bottom line – Failure to delivery during initial sprints is acceptable and expected. But those learning has to be implemented during further sprints for a successful end result. Please accept this phenomenon.

Coaching – The next blunder any vendor does. AGILE Project can be successful only if the team knows the in and out of AGILE game rules. Imagine a team playing snake and ladder without the participant knowing that a snake bite pulls them down and a ladder can lift them up. So, the training or coaching on AGILE must be given well ahead of the start of the project and not during the project.

Bottom line – Safety Instructions are given in a flight before the take-off and not when situation arises. So, equip the team with AGILE knowledge and rules before on boarding

Contract – The word that even the outsiders of any management board meeting room could get acquainted of is ‘Contractually’. Both vendor and the customer look at it to shield and defend or to find loopholes and debate. Therefore it’s the most important part of any project, especially if its AGILE Fixed price, almost a 4 eyes decision is preferred. Estimates are the backbone of any contract and if it is not approached and arrived at rightly, estimate can often be a hero playing a negative role.

During estimation, I have seen vendors bringing their own expert team and doing a great work but where they go wrong is failing to appoint an Agile consultant for Agile project estimations. How many Agile projects estimation has a predicted Story point for the given user stories? Minimal. Instead, the typical man days are used, efforts are arrived at and the estimation is built up. When it comes to Sprint planning, the story point estimate is done and story points are arrived at; that will never give any clue blatantly whether it fits with the man days estimated?

Bottom line – Prevention is better than cure. So, having a holistic vision of story point estimate in advance during estimation phase will make any agile project estimates alignment more appropriate.

So, my conclusion is quite simple just like agile. If carefully considered and thoroughly understood, AGILE will be the most efficient methodology to adapt.

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