When Adopting or Transforming to Agile an organization may require support at various levels and areas. As an Agile Coach you will be required to help in all the different scenarios across the board. Your coaching style will change depending upon what is it exactly that the organization needs help in.
Assessing Agile Health and Maturity
Sometimes the teams and departments in an organization which are looking forward to adopting Agile are unaware of the level of Agility they already possess. They are looking for answers to questions like: Whether or not Agile is for them or How much learning is a prerequisite to Adopt Agile smoothly? They are not sure about how many hours or days coaching is required before they can sustain themselves in the Agile environment successfully? What Practices, Tools and Metrics will make sense for them?
All such questions find their answers in about a week long Assessment and will involve Interviewing individuals, Observing implementations, conducting Workshops and collecting Metrics. The Agile Coach then prepares a summary of all the findings at the end of the week and based upon that recommends the organization about the right approach by proposing a Coaching Plan.
In case an organization has doubts about whether Agile is the right fit for them, the coach recommends to start with an initial small-scale implementation to prove the viability of agile adoption. This will help the organization to identify the risks and dependencies related to Agile Transformation before substantial resources are committed. Such an initial implementation is called a Pilot or Proof of Concept. It starts with coaching a single team for a limited amount of time on Agile Values, Principles and Practices. The Organization is advised to adopt Agile if the Pilot project proves to be successful.
An Agile Coach who is part of a Pilot needs to carefully manage the time in hand by distributing it among various activities and targeted areas while measuring productivity to showcase the improvements and benefits at the same time.
The Pilot ends with the Agile Coach preparing a Progress Report summarizing challenges and recommending solutions.
The scope of the objectives and the time allowed determines how long the Pilot will last which is generally from a few weeks to two months.
There are time when development teams choose to Adopt Agile Practices and tools with hopes to gain quality and productivity improvements. These Practices and Tools can be divided into two parts depending upon if they are Process or Engineering based. Practices which are more inclined towards improving project processes are daily stand-ups, iteration planning, reviews and retrospectives. Engineering practices include TDD, Pair Programming, Fast Builds, Continuous Integration, Test Automation, etc..
Mastery at these practices is achieved by investing sufficient time in learning and receiving proper guidance. When the Principles behind the Practices are properly understood, their benefits are revealed in less time compared to when the principles and values are vague to the team. To achieve the level of competency, also known as ‘Ha’ in the popular scale of “Shu, Ha, Ri”, individuals in a team are required to shift their mindset or by developing a right attitude towards Agile Practices. This can only be establishing a shared understanding of the Values which serve as the foundation for these practices.
So with the help of an Agile Coach a team adopts Agile by implementing these practices and growing their skill levels while at the same time learning and acknowledging the reasoning, as to what makes these practices valuable.
During the adoption process the Coach is required to track team’s progress and look for sudden spikes and drops in the Metrics employed. The Coach also keeps an eye on the potential pitfalls that the team may not be experienced enough to pin point.
Agile adoption is a time consuming process and it’s success greatly depends upon the project’s complexity, team’s attitude towards Agile Practices and the number of team members. It can take anywhere around a few months to a year to successfully adopt Agile.
Transforming into Agile
After Adopting Agile successfully most organizations opt to completely go Agile across all teams and departments. The Strategic Transformation of an organization which focuses more on individual’s mindset and company’s culture than processes and practices is known as Agile Transformation.
Agile Transformation is successful only when the organization’s Vision and Objectives are properly understood and are in sync across all departments. This requires an Agile Coach to focus on Strategic Planning which involves one-on-on or group discussions, workshops and tactical coaching at team levels. An Agile Transformation may take several years.