Lessons Learned from the early stages of an agile adoption project

We all know most of these inherently, through our past experiences.  Yes, we’ve learned them before. Unfortunately, when you’re neck deep kicking off a new Agile initiative, trying to communicate a lot of new information and deal with a plethora of questions and resistance, it’s all too easy to forget a few of these well-known, well-worn truths…

1. Understand the predominate organizational culture and plan accordingly.

  • How Change is managed in this environment
  • Which aspects of Agile/Lean will be most likely to succeed and which will be most likely to fail

2. Set expectations up-front regarding the client’s level of commitment to Agile/Lean

  • Is this an organizational or project-level initiative?
  • Are they open to learning and applying all the basics or are they predisposed to cutting corners

3. Make sure there is an executive or senior manager level champion.

  • This person should have influence over the team(s)

4. Make sure management/leadership team are trained along with (if not ahead of) the rest of the team.

  • This can set the tone for everyone that “we’re all learning together”
  • Quickly assess level of comprehension and retention of concepts after initial training.
  • Pay close attention to concepts/rules that are not readily accepted by the audience and re-enforce those early and often.

5. Pay attention to positive and negative Queues

  • Do they have a “can do” attitude or is there a lot of “can’t do that here…” or “that won’t work for us…”
  • Craft responses and identify teachable moments for both types of attitudes.

6. When encountering resistance to basic concepts and practices, consider these options:

  • Be prepared to explain the value behind each concept or practice – Why we do this, not just what or how…
  • Question the source of the resistance and ask them to propose positive alternatives
  • Always look to Add Value or Eliminate Waste, if you can’t say that something can do either, then you can probably omit it.

7. Promote self-directed teams and observe which teams/individuals embrace it and which ones don’t.

  • Tailor the approach for each accordingly.

8. Look for tangible, practical correlations between their traditional methodology and organizational/team norms and the “new” Agile/Lean methodology and norms that it fosters.

  • Emphasize some of the things that don’t change, as well as those that do, in order to provide balance and mitigate “change overload” reactions.

9. Apply Agile/Lean principals practically in the training/mentoring process.

  • This means we practice what we preach, applying and demonstrating Agile/Lean concepts in our own activities
  • Lead by example – Use yourself as an example when possible – i.e. inspect and adapt your own approach, style, training, etc. frequently and demonstrate that to the team

10. Hang in there, don’t give up

  • Remember, Agile adoption and, more importantly, sustainable transformation is a journey that takes time and patients.
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