Believe It or Not, Your Whole Business Can Be Agile
I read something that said that if you are trying to adopt Agile methodologies for your projects, you should do it across the whole organization and not just for a few select projects.
When I read this I laughed and thought it was totally impractical. I worked in an organization that had not adopted Agile at all. While sort of interested in dipping our toes in the water to take advantage of some Agile philosophies, we weren’t at all interested in changing the whole structure of the enterprise to Agile.
That was a year ago, I still work for that company, SingleHop, and we have successfully adopted Agile for a select group of Development projects. Surprisingly, despite initial resistance, we are also slowly adopting Agile throughout the rest of the business.
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Ok, quotes are lame, but that one really fits with how this is all coming together. I always thought managing non-Agile projects in an Agile framework was like trying to juggle apples and bananas and not make fruit salad. When I say non-Agile projects, I mean projects that don’t immediately lend themselves to Agile thinking — e.g. they aren’t Dev focused and are ostensibly more logically structured toward traditional waterfall processes, like building a data center. But, it turns out some of the Agile practices work for this side of the house too.
We are starting small with basic projects like hardware upgrades and configuring hosted applications, figuring out what works along the way. So far, what works is creating a backlog with user stories that have the goals and initiatives for the projects, having a strong product owner that prioritizes and drives the roadmap for the project/product scheduled in two week sprints, planning meetings to scope what can be done in the next sprint and getting everyone’s agreement, and finally, daily stand-up scrum meetings (virtual or physical) to review the commitments and blockers with the project teams. We are also piloting more of a Kanban style (not sprint) for some ongoing operational initiatives. This seems to be working amazingly well.
It’s not all great yet, we are still terrible at estimating — story points, planning poker, T-shirt sizing — whatever. We are still struggling with scope changes after a sprint has started, and maintaining our commitments and focus. And we are still looking for the right balance of user story and task definition, and how to define done and releases for these projects that don’t fit in the traditional Agile definition for these things. But, we are getting better every day and learning better ways to do things as we go.
So? The moral of the story is — believe it or not — Agile works across the whole enterprise. We aren’t quite there yet, but give us six more months and we will have adopted it across all portfolios and maybe take over the world or something too.
Now forgive me while I end with another topic-appropriate quote:
“The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”– Elbert Hubbard
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