Interview with Madhur Kathuria

Madhur Kathuria has coached nearly 300 teams for almost 75 clients across the US, Europe, South East Asia, Malaysia and Thailand. In this interview he talks about some of the cultural challenges for agile adoption. Read it here.

Interview with Elena Yatzeck

Elena was Chief Agilist for JP Morgan Chase Treasury Services and is now a VP of Corporate Compliance Tech. Find out how JP Morgan Chase reconciles agile with compliance and risk management demands. Read it here.

It Is Important To Get Key Choices Right

According to Angelika Dahmen, executive coach, trainer, and human capacity consultant,

"The most important bit is to decide what are the key decisions. What are areas that can absolutely not be compromised? These are usually related to resources and returns. I think it is important to gain clarity on this at the very beginning - and to constantly check project progress against those. Companies shouldn't risk running a project plan just because some decisions were made at the beginning - and not review and take difficult decisions if things don't work as planned."

According to Rob Llewellen, director of Consult Llewellyn,

"Selection of a business transformation methodology and the right capabilities are fundamental decisions to get right early on. If this is not done well, the pain will begin to be felt after a few months."

But what are the key decisions? That is not easy to answer. They will reveal themselves over time through discussion among the CIO, the transformation consultants, and the various senior leadership, functional managers, and project teams. Decisions that affect resourcing tend to be key decisions, such as whether to embrace agile's insistence on co-located team members, or to allow for distributed teams - and under what circumstances. Decisions about roles affect resources, such as whether to retain the project manager role, or to accede to Scrum's insistence on having a Scrum master but no project manager.

Other key decisions tend to relate to key enablers and key practices. For example, one can argue that the availability of cloud services is key to the way that agile is practiced today. Having agile models for governance functions such as security is also a key enabler - or will become a major constraint otherwise. For organizations that contract out much of their work, agile-friendly contracts are a key enabler - or will become a major impediment otherwise.

It is also important early on to develop an understanding of what the real impediments are. Instead of rushing headlong into agile or some other model, it is more useful to think through what obstacles are preventing the organization from attaining its goals, and to also introspect on the root causes of those obstacles. Sometimes one must do this repeatedly - asking what the root cause is for the root cause, until one gets back to the ultimate root cause. Often it is the case that all of the root causes in the chain must be addressed, and the sequence depends on the circumstances.

For example, it might be difficult for teams to suddenly convert to agile practices, and it will be even more difficult for support functions such as Testing and QA to redefine their own processes to support agile - some might even argue that these functions are obsolete under agile. In any case, it is usually possible to identify a series of changes that will improve things over time. Rather than trying to change everything overnight, discrete changes can be very effective, such as by reducing the sizes of teams, by keeping effective teams together instead of disbanding and reconstituting them for each project. Instead of trying to create Scrum teams in an organization that has lots of skill specialization and lots of project managers, it might be useful to give people training in servant leadership and leave major changes such as adopting Scrum teams for a later point in time.

These are not necessarily the right things to do, but they are things to consider. The point here is that there are many important decisions that have a large downstream impact, and those decisions need to be identified and carefully considered.

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