Introducing agile into a huge organization: where do we start?

Last month I attended an internal training session at work which aimed to introduce agile in our services unit. After 9 months in the company I have started to understand how it works and how difficult is to introduce changes in a huge organization. These companies are quite stable, like a merchant vessel, and time and effort is required to change their course of direction. So I was scheptical about what the guys providing the training would be able to suggest.

Start with the basics

And our coaches started with the basics. There are different layers of elements involved in Agile:

  • Mindset
  • Values
  • Principles
  • Practices
  • Tools & processes

The first in the list are the ones less visible and more powerful. On the contrary, the last one is the more visible but less powerful.

It is very typical to fall into the trap of the tools and practices but not having changed first the essence of your ways of thinking. This leads to false agility. So our trainers were focused in the mindset and values of agile.

Mindset and values

In order to create a change some steps are usually recognized as needed. Sharing and explaining the agile manifesto and its values is the starting point of our journey. Our team has now awareness of what can be done and is able to recognize opportunities to apply these principles.

It is true that the support of our management is needed. It si true that we have many processes and tools that are far from agile. It is true that when projects arrive to us many decisions have already been made. However every individual can do something to be more agile within its zone of influence.

Potential next steps

Now, according to P. Kotter, it would be time to create the sense of urgency and a guiding team that is able to communicate the vision and the benefits of the change. That is the phase to ‘prepare the change’ that should be followed by the change it self and that hopefully would end with a new culture (agile) in the organization. It will require time but we are already on the way.

There is an exciting journey ahead of us. What is your experience? Have you lived this kind of changes in big organizations? Were they successful? What were the keys of success and the main pain points?

Introducing agile into a huge organization: where do we start?

The importance of the study phase at the beginning of a project

Have you ever faced a situation where your project sponsor or other stakeholders expect that you start delivering results just after​ your first contact with the project?

Many people tend to start working in the execution phase when facing a problem instead of dedicating enough time to understand what they need to do. This may result in delivering the wrong solution or a not efficient one.

What should we do at the beginning of a project?

Let’s start dedicating enough time to understand the problem. When I was studying engineering I had a teacher who told me that I should dedicate half of the time he gave me to do a exam to understand the problem. The other half should be enough to describe and calculate the solution.

I followed this strategy not only in his exams but in other exams as well and I never regretted it.

Understanding the problem means not only reading what is said but also what is not said when our client explains his need.

Moreover we should not stop when we find the first potential solution to our problem. That is laziness. There are many tools to find creative solutions to a problem, once we find some of them a good approach is to compare them and identify the best one. And when we have the one we consider the best we should consider it from a different point of view and identify all the possible negative points it has. After that we can consider if it is still the best option for our problem.

Understanding your project

It is the same with projects. Dedicating enough time to the study phase of a project usually pays off.

It is important to identify and meet all stakeholders, to understand their expectations, how the outcome of the project would affect them, their priorities and their level of support and commitment with the project.

The scope of the project should be clearly identified (at least at a higher level). Sometimes we do not know at that stage all what will have to be done but we should know what will not be done in the project. Risks, budget and timing should be discussed as well with the project sponsor and main stakeholders.

And everything should be written down in a document that the team members and other stakeholders can consult at any time during the project.

What do you think? How many time do you tipically spend in this phase of your projects? What is the proportion in comparison with the whole duration of the project?

 

 

 

The importance of the study phase at the beginning of a project