Getting Started With Agile… One of Five

Written by Mike Cottmeyer Saturday, 27 February 2010 07:12

Yesterday, I did my first live presentation of a new talk I’m calling “Getting Started with Agile”. A better title for the talk might have been “How to Select an Agile Pilot Team in a Large Company, Get Them What They Need to be Successful, and Help Them Build Trust With the Rest of the Organization”, but that just didn’t seem to flow quite as well ;-) Now that it has been vetted live, and I’m pretty sure it solves a real problem… I want to spend some time talking through the content with you guys here… and give you a chance to weigh in.

If you are new to this blog, and for some reason haven’t been able to get through my earlier 270 or so posts… you might not be as familiar with my background. I’ve got a degree in Computer Science from the University of Florida but somehow never managed to become a professional programmer. I spent the first ten years of my career as a data center guy working with network and server hardware. The second ten years of my career I’ve been, in some form or fashion, a project manager. Most everything I have ever worked on has been big and uncertain and with teams of people that were figuring out stuff as we went.

We were doing iteration planning, daily stand-ups, story points, and retrospectives back in 2001 before I ever knew there was a movement forming called Agile. These things were the stuff I just figured out to cope managing projects in the face of brutal uncertainty. I have a huge aversion to wasting time and doing stuff that doesn’t make sense, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to spend my time doing Gantt charts that everyone knew were fiction. I opted to lead my projects rather than spend all my time keeping project plans up to date. My approach wasn’t always popular, but we delivered some really kick-ass projects.

Because so much of my career has been spent challenging conventional thinking, I’ve developed a passion for helping folks understand how to use non-traditional ways of managing work. I want to help people to understand context, and apply what they know in ways that make sense. That is the backdrop for most of my writing… let’s take what we know… let’s understand where we are… let’s figure out what we need to deliver… and let’s make good decisions about how to most effectively manage the work. We are not living in a one size fits all world. We can’t take a one size fits all approach to solving problems.

So, that is kinda where this talk started. When VersionOne asked me to kick-off their webinar series, I thought I would use one of my existing talks on scaling agile… maybe something on enterprise value, or the role of the product owner. They actually wanted something that was more introductory… something for people just getting started. There is a ton of stuff out there that explains the basics of Scrum and XP… and I knew I didn’t want to do an intro to Scrum talk. The other thing was, that while most people seem interested in Agile… they have a hard time going back and applying these concepts in more traditional organizations.

This talk was designed from the ground up as less of an ‘intro to agile’ talk… and more of a ‘okay you are sold on agile… now let’s really figure out how to get started’ talk. Getting started doesn’t start with your first release planning meeting… it starts with spinning up your first team. It starts with choosing an agile pilot team and putting them in the best possible position to be successful. It’s about understanding how to get them everything they need to deliver working software. How to get them tied to a real enterprise level problem, something the business really needs to have solved, and help them knock it out of the park? It’s about helping the team be successful… but also making sure the larger organization is successful too.

This talk is broken down into four main sections:

  1. Understanding what your organization values and spinning up an agile pilot team to unlock that value
  2. Understanding the anatomy of an agile team and getting them what they need to be successful
  3. Establishing a delivery cadence and building trust and safety with everyone else in the organization
  4. Understanding common challenges and facilitation tools for taking the first step toward agility

Over my next few posts, we’ll break these four sections down and talk through each in more detail. Looking forward to your comments.


3 Comments

  1. C├ędric Bourgeois   |  Saturday, 27 February 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Great! Long to read more!
    I was given the opportunity lately to play a role in an agile game which was "start your agile project" (Thank you Emmanuel Etasse). So you already have a product owner who's got quite some idea of what he wants, you've got the team (~6 people), and you've got the game leader who plays more or less the role of the ScrumMaster – as far as the SM is in charge of explaining how to start a project and leading a "sprint 0".
    I clearly see that what I'm talking about is not exactly the topic of your talk. Nevertheless, talking about "getting started with agile", this practice was very helpful to understand and feel how things should look like at that step of the project. Just wanted to share this.

  2. Mike Cottmeyer   |  Sunday, 28 February 2010 at 12:29 am

    Thanks for sharing, I'll look it up.

  3. Cory Wheeler   |  Tuesday, 02 March 2010 at 5:24 pm

    After having experienced something similar to what you're speaking about, I look very forward to the next posts on this topic.

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