Observations for 2011 – The Year of Trust in Agile Organizations

If Agile is to continue to scale in organizations, I see this at being the year of organizational leadership needing to internalize what Agile means in terms of change in their organizations. They need to internalize and act upon the importance of “trust” in driving change and pushing decision making down into organizations, a key quality of Agile companies.

Kanban and Trust

 Whether you call it Kanban or just Work-In-Process Limits and “Pull-Based Execution” I think the principals of Kanban are here to stay.  For them to become useful to the Agile community, I point back to trust.  There has been a disturbing trend of teams going away from approaches like Scrum because of the claim they “didn’t work for us because we have too much change” and instead flocking to Kanban as a silver bullet because of its less structured nature. Kanban does have an advantage because it doesn’t seek to change current development practices and roles as dramatically, it optimizes rather than revolutionizes.  But this comes at a cost, Kanban success comes back, even more so to the issue of organization trust.  If there isn’t enough trust in an organization to make Scrum work, the chances of Kanban working are probably less.

This trust in Kanban is in regards to the trust in a team’s throughput and trust that the team is striving to improve.  Without this trust the pull nature of Kanban breaks down because the Productive Capacity of a team is not respected and therefore WIP limits are challenged and signaling becomes almost meaningless.

On the ALM Tool Front – Trust and Transparency

 ALM tools need to have champions within teams and not just in the PMO and managers.  If this is not the case, there is the risk of their value not being realized.  The “Teams” need to get back to the fundamentals of understanding why transparency is important to them and not just to management.  They need to take back the physical boards, understand what they give the team in terms of transparency, ownership and collaboration and then apply this to their ALM tool.

 At scale, the ALM tools need support that has a transparency mindset and not a control mindset.  This is where the PMO can contribute a high degree of value, by providing transparency upward and making the ALM integration to existing project management and governance system appear seamless to “The Teams” and Leadership.

 The PMO should also take on the role of “Protector of Transparency” because if the data it provides is used to punish people rather than to see trends at a point where there are the maximum number of options to correct off-course situations, Transparency tends to revert to collecting data for the purposes of protection when the inevitable blame game of dysfunctional agile-fall type projects commences.  It isn’t hard to see where Agile teams are in this respect based on the types of data they are worried about tracking in the ALM tool.


About Mike DePaoli

Mike DePaoli has been contributing to the IT community for over two decades and practicing agile and lean approaches to software development since 1996 in roles from programmer to CTO. His evolved approach to crafting successful lean-agile software development organizations was forged by the meaningful challenges he undertook at prior employers and as an Agile Coach at companies such as eBay, Adobe Systems, AOL, NetApp, Disney, Boeing, EMC, and Trizetto. Mike’s area of expertise is helping organizations craft strategic change initiatives that educate on and establish agile and lean values, principles and practices at every tier of the organization. Mike applies systematic thinking with a multi-discipline approach to his work. Mike is a Certified SAFe Agilist, Certified Scrum Professional, Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). He is a highly-regarded speaker in the Agile community having spoken at Agile conferences in North America, South America and Europe. He is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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The Agile Horizon

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