Working in a wannabe-agile team

Direction

I decided to write a post about my experience of working in a very demanding banking organization. The team itself is divided between various sites in UK and India which makes communications quite hard. When I joined the project I was warned about the cultural and technical difficulties that exist in the team. Worth noting that it consists of permanent staff as well as contractors and of course our offshore partner.

Part of my role in the project, is to break those IT stereotypes that the team is suffering from. My managers have every confidence in me, I believe I have gained their respect and they keep consulting me on a daily basis about how to go forward. It seems to me that they would love the culture of the IT department to be modern and the people to be willing to adapt to new policies, technologies and procedures. I know that they would love an agile team but at the same time they acknowledge that as a team we do not have that capability quite yet.

Having said all that, I came across a very interesting article about ways to perform Agile Transformation in organizations that suffer from lack of adaptability.

The biggest issue in such situations is the people. Especially the permanent staff. In our company we have people that have been programming in the waterfall model for almost 20 years, knowing nothing about object oriented programming for example. People that love to stick to the process of first making the perfect design, and then to develop the product. From my experience this situation almost never happens, and waiting for the perfect design costs time and money. As someone that believes very much in the success of the project both from a technical as well as a financial side, it is my obligation to change that mentality. I believe very much in an Agile world.

BUT:

My enthusiasm is slowly decreasing. In order to get anything done, you need to wait for ages. I have met many people criticizing the choice of the language (Java) simply because they had never had any experience with it. Moreover, when you try to convince them to do things a different way, they become as stubborn as a donkey (popular Greek expression).

I guess that the article mentioned is right:

“Agile adoption is a harsh mirror. If you don’t want to know how ugly you are, don’t look in.”

Question is however and goes to the managers: Where do they see the department going?

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2 thoughts on “Working in a wannabe-agile team

  1. Agile is really exposing and unlike many people want to make you believe, they are aware of their own flaws and how much a certain process humiliates them – it’s a skill everyone adopts at an early age, and therefore almost completely subconscious.

    Since there is no way to be agile without looking at the team’s issues, the solution is to offer them something else instead.

    In my experience, the easiest foot to get into the door is testing. When customers ask for features, ask “How would you know that it’s working correctly? Can you give me an example?” Yay, acceptance tests for free.

    People struggling with a piece of code that fails all the time in interesting ways? “How do you know it’s wrong? What would be right? Maybe we could write a piece of code that makes sure it stays right from now on?” Yay, unit testing.

    “Can you write a test?” “You can’t thest that!” “…. You wrote software that can’t be tested? Seriously?” “… No, of course you could test it but …”

    The best part: It focuses on solutions. When suggesting tests, no one can get into the blame game. Everyone can get involved. Customers, managers, developers, everyone understands tests. And they offer the most value for the least investment.

  2. Pingback: Agile For Prudes | Dark Views

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