Agile Enablement – The Cultural Change

The Apples and Samsungs of the world wouldn’t have reached this point of continuous innovation if they would have taken a very long time to get the product to market. In a non-iterative manner of developing a product, by the time products is launched in the market, it will be redundant as the requirement does not exist anymore! What keeps the ideas flowing is their “Agile approach” towards the products.

Samsung launched Galaxy S3 and within a very short span of time they came up with S3 mini to respond to the customer’s demand of a smaller phone. That’s being truly Agile!

Agile is a culture

A widely spread notion of being Agile is “changing requirements” which makes it desirable for a lot of companies. Nobody wants to launch an application or a product which is unusable or outdated by the time it reaches the market. Agile helps these companies to visit the application/product as it is building and improvise iteratively.

But the real question is, “by following a few processes, will you be Agile”? Perhaps this is where a lot of organizations fail. Making an organization Agile is not just about changing a few processes; it is about changing the mind-sets and eventually the culture.

Approach to enablement

The real assets of an organization are it’s employees. To make a change in the way they work or they are used to, poses a challenge. Telling the team to start doing stand ups, iterative development, retrospectives etc. is easier, but that is not going to be successful until all these processes are qualitative. To do so, the teams need to understand the real reason for following Agile. They need to understand how the iterative cycles of work help their clients; how daily stand up meetings help them in removing the blockers; how early feedback helps them develop a usable and defect free product and so on. This is what helps in the “mind set change”.

The very basis of Agile is that it encourages communication over the processes. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any processes followed. There are requirement documents (called stories) created but they would just act as placeholder for conversations. An Agile set up will be a success if the entire project team sits together; could be around same table or in the same room. This set up ensures that there are more conversations happening amongst the team and ideas keep flowing in. The idea is that none of the discussions will require e-mails (unless it is with clients/teams which are not co located).

The other important point that teams need to understand is that none of the roles (BA, QA, developers etc.) can work in silos. Although each of these roles focus on their core skills, it is very important that they work closely and question the other roles. For example, a quality analyst’s role will not just be required when the functionality is complete. A QA will be involved during the analysis phase to start working on test cases, during the development cycle to help automate some of the tests and early feedback. Similarly, other roles will have to don different hats at different stages. In the end it is each role’s responsibility to ensure timely and qualitative delivery of the product which helps one create self-managing teams.

Measuring success

In the process of enabling teams or organizations to become Agile, it is very important to retrospect and reflect on how the teams are doing. One cannot measure agility in terms of the Agile processes being followed or the jargons being used. Processes are only a part of enablement, once the teams have started thinking continuously about how to improve the product and iteratively adding value to deliverable, the organization’s culture will be truly Agile.

Prachi Tiwari is a Lead Consultant at Compassites. She has 7+ years of experience in the industry playing BA/PM role. Her areas of expertise include requirements gathering, analysis, management and Agile enablement. She is an avid promoter of Agile. Prior to working with Compassites, she worked with ThoughtWorks. She holds an MBA from Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai. Outside of work, she loves to read and travel.

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