Is This “The Way” to Spread Agile Awareness?

Posted on Saturday, July 12, 2008

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Last weekend I attended the Poppendieck’s workshop in Delhi organized by ASCI. Well, to tell the truth, I came back grossly disappointed. Oops, don’t get me wrong, the workshop was good, hmm, it could have been better. But I was disappointed not because of the workshop but because of the state of Agile Awareness and the way we are trying to bring about awareness.

Someone would argue that we are doing workshops, conferences, hands on sessions about Agile then isn’t this “The Way’ to spread awareness? My answer is not quite! So is there another way, may be! but this not the way.

Question > But why isn’t this the right way, we have luminaries from the world coming over and talk to us, we have enthusiastic learners, good questions are asked, good value streams are created, people network, enjoy the lunch/tea/coffee and go back content with what they have heard.

The answer > is that it ends there! People go back after attending the session, thinking about Agile a bit and then the next day it is all over. They go back to their cubicles, to the legacy waterfall’ish systems, follow the heavy processes and practices which seldom make sense.

The reason > is that none of the people who attend the Agile conferences, at least the ones that i have seen so far are in a position to make or influence decisions. They would love to work the Agile way but none of their large organizations and the people up in the ladder know/want to know the benefits that Agile can bring to the table. So our dear little Agile enthusiasts, attend conferences, hoping that one day somehow, someone would wield the magic wand and everything would be fine.

This is how I see typical IT organizations in India and probably this is true globally too.

If you look back at the workshops that we have done so far we get ample participation from the “Decision Follower’s”. We get very limited participation from “Decision Influencer’s” and almost none from “Decision Makers”. So the net result, whatever we talk about Agile remains good for just one day! The workshop day! The shelf life of the Agile enthusiasm is limited!

My experience and understanding is that the developer community which mostly falls in the “Decision Follower’s” section has readily bought the Agile philosophy. They know it works and they would love to follow it. The challenge now lies in getting the other two sections involved because that is where the decisions would flow from. We have to show the people in the other section that Agile can work well for the organization as a whole. We have to show them the benefits in day to day operations, the way team can be more productive, motivated, efficient and so on. We have to show them the indirect benefits, that by having motivated teams you can retain people, they would work more efficiently and hence be cost effective.

You could argue that “Decision Follower’s” are empowered in Agile. There are self organizing teams and they can make their own decisions. True. But for that they have to follow Agile first. The thrust to follow Agile would come from the other two sections. They would act as the catalyst for Agile adoption. If they are not convinced Agile awareness can grow but not the adoption.

So we would have to do Agile conferences specifically for

  • CxO’s
  • Project Managers/ Leaders etc
  • Software consumers so that they can demand their vendors to follow Agile. After all it is the consumers who buy software and they would be interested in getting more for their dollar.

Unless we an do this we can feel good about the workshops that we attend and go back to our traditional projects housed in cubicles!

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Posted in: Agile