Transitioning to Agile is well worth the effort and benefits, but the way is not always easy and can be filled with issues and frustrations, as well as wrong turns.
To try and be successful in your transition, use a roadmap for the effort, and plan to spend some time and effort on the journey itself. Steps to start can look like this:
Pick the right person to lead the transition effort. This person will have energy and enthusiasm, and insight into Agile.
Pick a small project, one without a lot of complexities surrounding its next release target, and one with team members ready to learn.
Use a collaboration tool that may already exists in your org or purchase a limited number of licenses on something new, or select a different method to collaborate such as a wall board.
Get together with team members and set some goals, gain a common understanding of what comes next, and what comes later.
Expect the change to take some time and energy.
The lead of the transition effort can secure the collaboration tool and users’ access or create the wall board, schedule the meetings, and answer questions as they surface.
Plan for the first phase:
Pick a practice or a handful of practices to start with, such as changing requirements to stories, then start using the tool or wall.
At a round table, get everyone’s buy-in and ownership-of a workflow, keeping it simple for this first phase.
Schedule and set expectations of a daily standup.
Estimate your stories or translate estimates from the Project Plan.
Start sprinting, with a Sprint Planning session.
Have a retrospective at the end of every sprint for a while, even if just to share, question, and vent.
By roles, have each team member do some part in transition prep, a possible list could look like the one below:
Agile Lead: secure the tool or wall for collaborating, schedule standups and a Sprint Planning session for 2 or 3 weeks forward. Use Agile terminology, to start making it common language.
Product Owner (BA): start to translate the highest priority requirements into stories and organize them into epics, facilitate with team member inputs.
Create the backlog and prepare stories for Sprint Planning. Readiness means that the stories will have the details of the requirement, be useable by developers and QA, and be estimated. Work with the business to start ordering the backlog by priority.
Developer: Contribute to grooming the former requirements, now stories, with the PO/BA and give your best-guess estimates.
QA: Contribute to grooming the former requirements, now stories, with the PO/BA and start deriving your Test Plan and Test Cases. Follow the Backlog order of priorities.
Lead (again) be ready for Sprint Planning, and in the beginning, invite everyone to contribute and participate.
Leadership needs to be involved too, especially at the start and through the first phase. Whoever has the power and authority to set a directive needs to step forward and communicate clearly that this is desired by the organization and that the participants need to participate. This is critical in overcoming resistance, even among team members who seem to be eager and willing initially.
The next step is to set the objectives for phases 2 and 3, and onward. This will accomplish two important aspects of success:
- setting shorter term goals that are easier to reach
- measuring success by outcomes
As well, creating and displaying a phased roadmap can instill the idea that Agile is ongoing in its adoption, continuous as the team grows into it, and a practice that can optimize over time.
And, information can be shared and leadership can take note that there will be slow changes not only in delivery, but how people are working. At its best, the list below is how teams and individuals transform:
- Authoritative hierarchy -> self-organized
- Silo’d work -> interactive
- Predictable and rigid delivery of work -> nimble, and changing or changeable
- Documentation heavy -> documentation light
- Formal communication -> transparent and informal communication
These changes are significant for teams who experience them. Many people have spent a career honing and executing specific skills and may need time to change their way of working. Others, may have recently finished school where Agile-like practices were the norm. Changes in the workspace atmosphere and social interactions should not be underestimated. These personal, and interpersonal changes require support and attention from leadership. Stress and resistance can best be eased through inclusion, especially in decisions, and fostering ownership of results by the team members themselves.
After at least 3 sprints, a team will be ready to look back and start planning for Phase 2. And in an Agile approach, they can set sights on what Phase 3 will look like. Post and socialize your roadmap to see what comes next, and be sure to come together often as a team at round tables!