For the past eight(8) years Schalk Neethling has been working as a freelance developer under the pseudo of Volume4 and is now the president of Overt Strategy Consulting. During this period he has completed over 300 projects ranging from full web application development to complete branding. As president and lead developer of Overt Strategy Consulting, Schalk Neethling and his team has released a 100% Java standards based content management system called AlliedBridge and business document exchange and review system, called Doc-Central. Schalk Neethling is also actively involved on a daily basis in the open source, web standards and accessibility areas and is a current active member of the Web Standards Group. Schalk is also the co-founder and president of the non-profit The South Web Standards and Accessibility Group, which aims to actively educate and raise awareness of web standards and accessibility to both the developer society as well as business large and small. Schalk also has a long relationship with DZone and is currently zone leader for both the web builder, css.dzone.com, as well as the .NET zone, dotnet.dzone.com, and you can find a lot of his writing there as well as on his blog located at schalkneethling.alliedbridge.com. Schalk is constantly expanding on his knowledge of various aspects of technology and loves to stay in touch with the latest happenings. For Schalk web development and the internet is not just a job, it is a love, a passion and a life style. Schalk has posted 173 posts at DZone. View Full User Profile

Creating an Agile Environment

10.13.2008
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A few months ago I was contacted by a friend with a problem. The year was coming to an end and he had let a compliance project slip through the cracks. The compliance deadline was year end which was a mere 5 weeks away. Failure to comply could mean serious government repercussions to his company. My friend asked for help in creating an Agile team and doing an Agile project in the following 5 weeks.

This would be a great time to tout how Agile came in and saved the day but that would be a lie. I did help my friend prioritize his work and make the deadline, and we did follow some Agile principles along the way, but we did not put an Agile team or process in place.

Why didn’t we put an Agile team in place and follow an Agile framework? Because it takes time. Teams need time to feel comfortable with Agile processes and they need time to learn how to interact with each other. Managers need time to learn how to lead in an Agile environment. The team needs to use an Agile process for several months, then major benefits will begin to manifest.

Migrating to Agile is more than changing your process. It also requires a change in culture. For most companies changing culture is the most difficult part. I believe this is true for several reasons. Here are a few:

  • Whether successful or not, companies get comfortable with their processes.
  • Many people still believe requirements change because they are poorly managed. They cannot comprehend a process that embraces change.
  • Most managers have been trained to control events. Empowering the development team to deliver and own the project is not intuitive or logical.
  • Job protection. In larger companies whole groups are dedicated to regulating and overseeing projects. An Agile team has less need for these services.

There are numerous other reasons but I believe these are at the center of the issue. These issues should be addressed in two ways. First, you want to address the culture needs of each group head on. We will do that by laying out a game plan for obtaining support from line management, the team, the individual and executive management.

IF YOU WORK IN A SMALLER COMPANY

If you are in a smaller company you may not have all of the possible organization levels. That is a good thing. You should find it easier to create an Agile culture because you are fighting your competition on a daily basis. You will obtain the most value by reading the sections related to creating an Agile team and addressing the needs of the individual.

Second, you want to address this problem by establishing practices that foster an Agile culture. Practices such as high customer involvement, testing early, and collaborative decision making will promote an Agile mentality throughout the company.

This article is based on Chapter 4 of Becoming Agile by Gregory S. Smith. For more information, visit www.manning.com/smith
Published at DZone with permission of its author, Schalk Neethling.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

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