Agnostic Agile

Agnostic Agile from the Trenches – 3. Managers and Team Retrospectives

By Shaaron A Alvares & Adrian Lander

 

Preamble: We believe that everybody can be a leader. Leadership is not a title, nor the prerogative of executives or management only, instead everybody across an organization is a leader, individual team members included. For the purpose of this article, that focuses on roles interaction in agile, we named various roles, team member, manager, leader, but we understand that they all can be leaders.

 

As I introduced agile or improved agile delivery in various groups in Seattle, I had the opportunity to work with some of the best agile leaders and champions: David Smith and Ashish Suryavanshi at Microsoft, Fernando Cuadra at Expedia, Sally Bauer at BECU, and Thomas McGee at T-Mobile to name a few. They understood agile and its benefits well and lived by the agile values and mindset, which is particularly difficult to do when, as line managers of a large group, they are responsible for their teams’ success and setbacks. They took any opportunity they had to foster the agile mindset, sometimes at the detriment of their relationship capital or at the cost of their career aspiration and stability. These agile leaders shared common traits and common beliefs. As an example, they were very adamant about not inviting managers to attend team retrospectives and if managers crashed retrospectives uninvited, they instructed their scrum masters with the following: “Text my cell phone 911 and the room number where you are and I will come right away”, “Ask them to leave, you have my support”, “let me know if that happens and I will address it”. In some organizations, T-Mobile was one of them, we created a log, confidential to the agile coaching crew only, where we captured manager incidents in order to address these with the appropriate level of support and coaching.

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An agnostic agile journey of a team new to agile

A bigger, but packed with learning read on a real case of an agnostic agile journey, from scratch.

Context

The team was new to agile, and to each other and the organisation. They were asked to develop a new mobile solution that would be used on board of airlines. So, regulatory / safety aspects. There was an external hard deadline, and the organisation had lost a year creating a hefty traditional business requirements document through another, traditional (expensive) team without delivering any product, not even for evaluation, and now there were only a few months left. In a business workshop it turned out that a lot of the requirements had become outdated or even obsolete. The need for the product and the external deadline had not changed, though. Neither the business division that was client nor IT management were very warm towards agile – they were convinced that “agile does not work here”. They were also not very open to change their old (micro) management habits……They knew however that traditionally they had never delivered in such a short time, nor three times that. And maybe if it did not work, they could get rid of agile. A win-win? An interesting, challenging journey was ahead. Continue reading “An agnostic agile journey of a team new to agile”

Freeing Practices – introductory talk to Agnostic Agile (slides)

Frameworks provide the common language, guidance, events and ceremonies that govern how things “get done around here” for a lot of organisations, and they provide a great starting point. But how much common ground do they actually have?

The agile ‘industry’ suffers from a lot of dysfunction between practitioners, competing certification bodies and branded frameworks and methods. We still see people vehemently aligned to a single framework or method, disregarding others, and ultimately perpetuating the ‘one size fits all’ mentality. This is inherently not agile and is not true to the manifesto.
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Essence – Putting Agnostic Agile into Action

To all agnostic agilists – as part of the next iteration of the Agnostic Agile concept, we are supporting and working with the team behind Essence. Essence is a standard that defines the smallest set of concepts that are common to all software projects and helps embed agile professional practices and governance across an organisation for sustainable, scalable and responsive solution delivery.
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