Agile needs team acceptance and time to work successfully

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Software Development

The other day I had the opportunity to interview Scott W.
Ambler
, one of the great thought leaders of the agile methodology.
Ambler is IBM’s leader in agile development practices and has held this title
for a upwards of a decade.

Ambler has been working with the agile methodology since the early 2000’s
which is when the Manifesto was written, defining the meaning of agile. “I
started working with agile almost immediately right after the original snowbird
meeting
. Specifically I began modeling and examining the ability to
scale agile to fit organizational needs — I wanted to see if the methodology
was transparent and would be applicable for larger organizations to use.”

Since the introduction of agile to the software community, Ambler has taken
part in, as well as organized, several annual surveys on agile success
in business. While a large portion of his findings suggest that agile is a key
component in revitalized software success – mainly in deployment time frames –
it can be difficult for those using traditional methodologies to transition to
an agile environment.

“One of the major problems with agile development that I’ve noticed are
‘self-inflicted’ cultural issues,” said Ambler. Organizations that have become
all too comfortable in waterfall-type development have a difficult time finding
the groove in agile development — and then staying in it.

“Often the biggest agile failures I see are in data groups and QA teams.
These are the groups that have become accustomed to being ‘out of control.’ They
are used to being micromanaged and aren’t ready or able to begin thinking for
themselves. I look at them and wonder ‘how can any organization could tolerate
this kind of behavior?,’ but many do, unfortunately. One of the biggest abusers
of power that I’ve seen is in IT governance, but they’ve always been a bit of a
challenge for organizations looking to run lean,” said Ambler.

Ambler believes that with a willingness and readiness to transition — any
team or organization should be capable of adopting some agile techniques — even
in the most unlikely of places.

“I have gathered overwhelming evidence in my surveys supporting agile
adoption across the board. It is being used everywhere, even outside of
software development and finding success. This economy, without a doubt, is a
major contributor to this agile momentum — everyone is trying to lean down the
expense of their project and roll out working products in smaller intervals.
What is so surprising are the areas outside of IT walls that are using agile without
reproach.”

Some of the areas Ambler pointed to were in the defense and regulation
sectors, places where agile seemed like a long shot if not completely out of
the question. “I’ve heard of airplane and missile manufacturers using agile
techniques to engineer fuselages, highway construction – the list is endless.
But just because agile worked for them, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work
for you.”

Ambler recommends organizations in the manufacturing space interested in
agile to check out Real-Time
Agility
as a reference. But the title is also helpful to strict
software developers looking to make their production practice run smoother. The
book explains how system engineers and plane manufacturers have been able to
bring agile to the physical development industry.

But even with the “across the
board
” success agile is claiming, Ambler warns “keep in mind, your
mileage may vary.”

Just because agile worked in situation “X”, is no indication that it will
transcend into other industries, including yours – even if it is a related one.
“Many have said to me ‘we can’t do agile development’ and I agree, they
probably can’t, but only because there is a self-constructed boundary between
their way of working and the way agile works. Agile was never intended to be an
overnight fix. And those who believe it is a ‘silver bullet’ often end up
shooting themselves in the foot. Agile needs both acceptance and time to work
successfully, willingness of teammates and close quarters collaboration,” said
Ambler.

So, once again the age old saying fits in patience is a virtue.

Author: Dan Mondello

Source: IT Knowledge Exchange

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