Give Yourself Nine Months to Fail.

(Note – this is a Greatest Hits posting from my previous blog. Enjoy!)

Babies aren’t born in one month.

Implementing Scrum Means Making Mistakes. Lots and Lots of Mistakes.

When I started on at my current employer – even after nine months as a team lead – I had very little to boast about by way of making change. I remember hearing a presentation from another manager that had the title, “Keeping The Lights On” – WOW! – And honestly that was how I felt about my job. Keeping the lights on, reacting to events – not getting ahead of them, and not able to control them. I was very disconnected from the work my team was doing. This changed as we moved out developers that were not contributing to the team and not being transparent about their work; and, as we got new projects coming in, I could cherrypick the fun ones and start participating in writing specfications and deploying solutions. Beyond taking on new work, though, Agile is the biggest reason why I’m still around. Without it, I’d be like the manager at my previous company – completely isolated from the daily work my team is doing, trying to defend our existence without the facts I need to prove that we’re delivering value.

I started thinking about my company – which seems to love mountains – and how every company’s definition of Agile is a little different. At the keynote I met an old compatriot – we had worked on a project together that was a failed Agile project. Everyone hated the DSU’s, which were 15+ minutes long, there was no target in sight since releases were pushed out to “never”, we went through constant rewrites as the technical team constantly refactored working code to get it “perfect”… it was a case study in how to do Agile wrong. After 18 months of development, they had to scrap the entire project and outsourced it to an offshore team – not one line of code ever saw the light of day. I believe a big reason why we failed was, we tried to change everything at once – and the team never gelled or considered itself invested in the outcome. In contrast, almost by accident, by doing things step by step – and rolling back when things weren’t working – we were successful in my current assignment. The path below took almost two years to implement, step by step – but it was done with the team setting the pace, and almost by accident we reached our goals.

I started out by talking about the fears I felt after a few months on the job. Overwhelmed, disconnected. I said, “I feel at times like I wasn’t as much in control as I need to be. I wasn’t in command of all the facts I need to support my case. I didn’t have enough visibility of what’s going on across the organization. I wasn’t giving my team all the tools and resources they need to thrive. And I wasn’t providing enough proof of delivering value aligned with what my company’s priorities are.”

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