January 12, 2015
How to transform your organisation from waterfall (plan-driven) development to agile
I already discussed ways to gently introduce your waterfall-oriented organisation to agile techniques, but what if you’re ready to go the whole hog and become a completely agile company?
You did everything like I said in the previous blog post: coaxed your colleagues into doing smaller sprints, had daily stand-up meetings and retrospectives. Now they’re all hooked on agile and you’re collectively prepared to take the big leap.
But how exactly do you go about turning an entire organisation to agile? There are two possible ways how this can be achieved.
Agile adoption – A slow and steady rollout of agile practices, one team at a time. You already did something along these lines if you read my last blog post.
Agile transformation – Implementing Scrum or other agile methodologies across the organisation. This method is more challenging, but the company stands to reap the benefits of agile faster and more fully.
Both ways of shifting your organisation from waterfall (plan-driven) to agile (results-driven) development have four important aspects: i) training; ii) commitment; iii) communication and culture; and iv) choosing the right tool.
Any kind of transition requires some degree of training to be completed in order to ensure that people are fluent with the new method both conceptually and in practice
Agile methods need to be taught in an agile way. There are many training institutions that offer training courses and certifications to help teams implement agile techniques more effectively, but the way the training is conducted roughly parallels the waterfall vs agile divide at work.
The traditional way of introducing agile to teams to is to encourage teams to go through a training course and only let them unleash their newly learned knowledge after they complete their training. This process detaches the learning process from the real-life context where the techniques will be used on a daily basis.
On the other hand, an ‘agile’ way of teaching agile is having the team members participated in regular meetings where they share ideas and discuss how to implement the agile framework to their current and upcoming projects.
This bears repeating: the implementation of agile should be carried out in an agile way.
Through timeboxing, and using small and measured sprints, a company can achieve its goals quicker and more effectively.
Committing to agile often means doing away with long-held work practices that hark back to the waterfall method of development.
Some organisations need to rethink their old processes and either get rid of them for good, or salvage certain aspects of them as long as they are tweaked in accordance to agile principles.
These processes generally include requirements review processes, bug resolution and others.
Communication and culture
Communication is critical in agile, particularly as good and open communication largely shapes the overall company culture. Agile is inherently collaborative and conducive to better communication between team members.
Rituals like sprint planning, daily stand-up meetings and retrospectives demand that the team have developed certain level of communication skills already across a variety of media, be it verbal, written or tool-based.
Cultivating more open communication practices in your team helps create a more receptive ground where agile can catch on more quickly.
Choosing the right tool
Certainly agile favours person-to-person interaction and collaboration more than strict reliance on tools and rigidly planned processes.
Agility is in many ways synonymous with increased efficiency in communication, and the latter does require the right tool for agile communication which will greatly reduce the time and effort to deliver your final product.
We use our own ReQtest software for software testing, bug tracking and requirements management, as well as agile communications, for example, using our Agile board, and many other organisations have benefited from this solution when adopting or transforming themselves into agile workplaces.
In today’s rapidly changing work environment, you cannot possibly embark on a years-long agile transformation process.
Rather than carry on lumbering around the landscape stuck in an inefficient, waterfall-oriented, plan-dictated manner, now is the best time to untether yourself and your organisation and go agile.
This decision shouldn’t be approached lightly. You have to carefully consider your culture and the company’s tolerance for change, as well as the nature of the work you carry out and customer engagement.
Taking all these considerations into account will help you decide whether adopting agile gradually, or completely transforming the organisation into an agile workplace is right for your team.