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Kirk is a software developer who has filled most roles on the software developer team. He is the author of Java Design: Objects, UML, and Process (Addison-Wesley, 2002) and he contributed to No Fluff Just Stuff 2006 Anthology (Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2006). His most recent book, Java Application Architecture: Modularity Patterns with Examples Using OSGi was published in 2012. Kirk is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 77 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Agile Transitions - NOT!

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David Anderson, an agile thoughtleader and Kanban evangelist, has posted a very interesting blog post surrounding agile transitions - they simply don't work! His point is that the approach used by organizations that embark on these initiatives is fundamentally flawed.

In the post, he describes a typical approach:

What typically happens is the new group kicks in to gear, holds an RFP, selects a vendor (or two) and starts to schedule meetings to evangelize the transition to Agile. People start to get invited to 3 to 5 day training classes. Gradually everyone in the organization receives the training and perhaps a certification in some Agile method. A day in the calendar is declared when everyone will start to work in a new way, change their behavior and follow what is often a textbook implementation of an Agile method. That day comes and everyone changes their behavior. Over the next couple of months they receive coaching to maintain the new Agile behaviors and follow the training they've been given. Management declares victory! Agility has been achieved. The consultants and coaches leave. It's then that the rot begins to set in.

I'm sure many of us have seen organizations do exactly what Anderson describes. If you have, you're familar with the result. Once the rot sets in, projects start to fail. Architecture is compromised. People aren't getting things done. Software that is delivered is often low quality. Development is in a state of chaos. But he doesn't just describe the result, he also goes on to explain why these initiatives fail. He states two reasons for this failure:

The first is that they are imposed by management, and the second is that the change comes packaged as an initiative with a nice handle like Vanguard that provides a convenient symbol upon which to focus dissent and resistance.

In general, people don't want process imposed upon them, especially a one-size-fits-all process that doesn't always make sense given the context. Instead, the process was forced upon them, without their input or consent. So what to do about agile transition initiatives? How can we make them successful? David provides his answer to this question. 

The answer is simple: don't have a Transition Initiative. Just say "No!" Forget labeling the transition. Forget forming a team to drive the transition. Do not try to impose some methodology or process template on your organization. Do not attempt to standardize the process across all teams and projects. Do not suppose to know better than the people doing the real work. Recognize that...

Continuous improvement is everyone's business!

I couldn't agree more! 

David's full post can be found here.



Published at DZone with permission of its author, Kirk Knoernschild.


Laszlo Szalvay replied on Fri, 2009/05/08 - 12:40pm

I have to disagree with David here. I have a lot of customers who have succeeded.  Kirk, I am suprised to see you agreeing to this.

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