5 Steps to Implement Agile

How to Plan for Successful Transition to Agile

We are constantly amazed at how many companies attempt to implement agile methods without adequately preparing for the transition. Just like with any major project or corporate restructuring, the transition to agile is pervasive. It’s a method and mindset change that affects the entire organization, not just the development team.

If your company has had trouble implementing agile, I’ll bet your company has not adequately planned and prepared for the transition.

We’ve identified 5 steps to a successful agile transition:

  1. Educate
  2. Budget
  3. Plan
  4. Start
  5. Revise

Step 1 – Educate

This first step seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many managers say they want to be agile when they have no idea what that means. Before you decide to go agile, educate yourself on the topic.

How can you budget and plan for something that you do not understand?

  • Read a book. Have someone you trust recommend one to you. If you want to transition to scrum, we offer a free GSD Scrum Handbook on our website. Ask us to send you a copy.
  • Take a class. There are many live and online courses available.
  • Interview professional agile coaches or consultants to get a feel for what the transition is going to be like. Talk to at least 3 consultants; approach and cost can vary widely.

Step 2 – Budget

As you learn more about agile, you start to form an idea about what your development organization would be like if you transitioned to agile, the benefits of agile, and how you can start the agile journey. Those benefits can then be assigned dollar amounts, and you can set meaningful goals and objectives for the transition project. Now you are ready to put together a meaningful proposal and ask for budget dollars.

The budget you receive for the transition heavily influences the rollout plan options available to you.

Step 3 – Plan

Most companies do not receive a budget large enough to convert the entire organization all at once. So, during the transition, some teams will be agile and some teams won’t.

Agile teams must be able to plan for and complete their development work without relying on another team, which may not have transitioned to agile or may not be on the same sprint cadence. Think about this concept of self-organizing and independence as you form your teams. Your current team structure may not currently be optimal for the transition to agile. You may need to reorganize around capabilities or software platforms before you develop your transition plan.

After you organize for success, you need to figure out:

What teams will be first movers in the first wave of the transition?
How will teams be organized?
Who will transition to what agile roles?
Timing of training and coaching?
How many waves?
How long between waves?
How long until everyone becomes agile?

Most importantly: How will your organization or PMO operate with some teams developing using agile and some teams still developing using traditional methods?

To achieve your goals and successfully transition your entire software development organization to agile, you have to visualize how this transition can be implemented for the greatest chance of success and adequately plan for it, given your budget constraints.

Step 4 – Start

When it’s time to transition first mover teams, we strongly advocate ripping off the bandaid and transitioning the selected teams to be 100% agile.

Let us be clear: We do not advocate scrummerfall or starting out by implementing any mix of agile and waterfall on any team or any part of the organization. You most likely will never become truly agile if you attempt to transition the organization in this way.  

The top reason why organizations don’t successfully implement agile is because the teams are not adequately trained. Step1 applies to every person on every team and every person who works with those agile teams.

Fear of the unknown and misunderstanding are the biggest contributors to failure on any project. Send everyone to classes that explain agile processes and concepts. Hire a good coach. Agile is a big paradigm shift from traditional methods. Give your teams the knowledge and confidence they need to succeed.

If you answered all the questions in Step 3, you identified the roles required for each team and you identified the right person to fill each role. Start out with complete teams. We cannot stress the importance of filling all the team roles and training the team members about their roles and responsibilities.

After training, immediately transition to agile. The team can no longer be allowed to operate in a traditional manner. This is why a coach is helpful, to reinforce the training and keep the team on track. Do not let the team flounder or get lost in analysis paralysis.

Step 5 – Revise

As you move through the first wave of transition, you become an educated and experienced agile manager. You recognize things you would do differently. So, change your approach and do the next wave differently.

The idea of Retrospective should permeate your organization. At the end of each wave, seek ways to improve and improve the performance of your entire project.

Learn agile.
Think agile.
Be agile.

Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn
CynthiaK@gsd.guru  503.799.5500

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