Agile capsules

This post is my own reflections on Agile organization after I read the following two posts:

  1. Post-Chasm Agile Blues
    2. Swiss Limited WIP case study

Agile was explained in the Agile manifesto supported by Agile principles.

Why should the organization itself become Agile instead of the team level only?
The team throughput is limited by the set-up in which it lives. Improving team productivity can only have limited impact, if the overall Value Stream is sub-optimal.

What we mean by that?
If we push work to the team, this will be at expense of both quality and schedule. In addition team spirit would go down. The project managers in command and control set-up are promoter of Push-system. Push assumes that by providing more work to teams and making them utilized to the limit we can get the best out of them and increase profitablity. However, in reality truth is the opposite. We should implement an overall organizational Pull system which allows teams to pull work once they have available capacity. We should trust each team does its best and will not claim less work than what it can actually do. I suggest also, to leave at least 10% slack in team allocation.

What about PMO?
PMO from my backgoround is a tool to manage projects in command and control set-up. This mentality is the reverse of what we need in-order become Agile organization. PMO, if implemented that way, can harm innovation, people pride in their work and qualiy. We want the teams to operate within an organizational Pull system instead of task assignment and tracking.

But man-hour is our asset?
Our most powerful asset is our people. Man-hour can be misleading indicator to our delivery capability. It is better to use Lead Time and Throughput to measure our delivery capability.

Can we have Agile as capsule? I mean we implement a tool or something like that which will turn us into an Agile company.
Tools like Kanban and Scrum for introducing team Agility are so useful. But team Agility has limited ROI if the organization can’t become Agile. The success is determined by the change program instead of tool implementation.

But project managers are critical to our client delivery?
I suggest our PMs become more as process facilitators. Even in traditional project management, the ultimate role of PM is facilitator. That was the correct answer when I passed the PMP exam more than 10 years ago. We should train PMs on Scrum process, Kanban, Lean and Agile principles. PMs can facilitate visual boards on the team level. We can train them to produce Lean metrics per product. We can teach them about collaboration to help teams to become more productive and empowered responsibly. However, we should not allow the PMs act as channel for passing management pressure to the team and to do task assignment. Our teams should be empowered so that they can make decisions to help us in producing software which is valued by our customers.

Who will do client facing work and communication?
We should communicate our visualized Value Stream to the client and explain to her the cycle. Use the metrics produced by our PMs to explain to our clients our delivery capability. We can use these metrics for establishing SLAs with the customer.

But we’re getting rid of our operations, PMs, directors, financial analysts!
Again, our ultimate asset is our people and therefore we should empower them. We can use process capability measures for monitization. Consider the revenue per feature and cost per feature as valued measures. We make money to stay in business. This means that we should think about first our people, then, process, technology, products, tools and others to allow us to provide value to our customers. By doing this we can stay in business. Driven mostly by making money is short-term and would lead us to lose money at the end. Steven Covey talked about this concept in what he called  Production and Production Capability. In business we need to give weight to production capability  same as production.

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