Monday, October 7, 2013
Once Some Kanban Successes Are behind You, Step up the Pace of Your Agile Transformation
Having already achieved some quick wins using the Kanban method, the people within your organization may be ready to adopt a more fulsome set of agile methods and techniques. Examples include finding a team or set of teams to adopt some of the practices from scrum, or extreme programming, as well as other method such as behavior driven development, story mapping, custom development, etc.
This more ambitious change can also target a slightly larger group this time around, for example an entire value stream or all of the knowledge workers trying to deliver value from one specific line of business within an organization.
That being said, implementing a more aggressive change exposes us to a number of risks that we have to take care to mitigate.
There is a lot to choose from when it comes to considering what agile methods to consider adopting as part of any kind of change. Some methods are more technical in nature, some promote better collaboration, all of them encourage higher feedback.
We can't just assume that any particular set of methods is going to be the right one for an organization. If we do this, and implement a cookie-cutter set of agile methods, we are very likely going to end up with the wrong change.
Implement More Ambitious Agile Change Using the Kernel Pilot Pattern
Our team has had success executing more ambitious agile change by following this pattern. We are executing larger agile change, but taking care to evaluate different aspects of the change model as we implement the change. We need to be ready to modify, append, and even discard various aspects of the change if they do not match the needs or context of the organization.
The idea here is to implement a change that acts as a miniature version of the overall transformation. A subset of transformation drivers should be addressed by the kernel pilot, as well as a significant portion of transformation target state components. This will allow you to evaluate if change participants receive appropriate benefits based on their commitments. Here is the canvas illustrated below, using a Change Canvas.
This kind of change typically takes longer to execute, several months is normal for change stakeholders to adopt a more fulsome set of agile methods. More coaching time is required, but benefits should also be higher, with both improved capability and resulting improvements in performance. As an outcome, you hopefully will have learned more about what your overall transformation target state is going to look like.
An Agile Requirements and Agile Management Stack Is a Good First Kernel Pilot
While certainly this is not the only option for a kernel pilot, (one focused on technical practices can also make a lot of sense), we see a lot of bang for buck in helping technology knowledge workers adopt a suite of agile practices that help improve communication and collaboration. Techniques could include a cross functional agile team model, user story centric practices such as planning poker and story mapping, and potentially other agile design methods such as behavior driven development and class responsibility cards.
Change stakeholders getting started with this kind of change usually require more significant assistance from somebody with agile experience, typically some full-time support is required. We have seen significant improvement in the quality, throughput and lead time from teams adopting this suite of practices, or a similar set of practices and tactics simply because they promote better coordination and collaboration.
Of course the exact combination of practices will need to vary based on context, and as the change progresses, some techniques will be discarded, modified, and others added.