The project described in this series of blogs went through three distinct periods. Different types of development work came to the forefront and necessitated shifts in how work flowed through the delivery teams. The changes in approaches themselves were not planned against any recommended transition plan but emerged in direct response to the changes. It is a testament to the teams involved that they were willing to throw away how they did work in order to adopt an approach more suitable to the moment. However to maintain a sense of purpose through this sort of constant turmoil, it helps to have some guiding goals to help the team remain focused on delivery. These goals were less apparent at the time. Hindsight has given me a chance to clarify them. Although you may find others drivers in your context, these ended up being the common themes behind the changes we needed to make.
Some of the biggest challenges we found in such a large organization, subject to regulation, is that the processes put in place for the benefit of auditing often flew in the face of Agile thinking. Rather than give up on Agile we chose to be selective, putting in place as many practices as we could get away with. More often than not we found room for negotiation once we had demonstrated the value of the change. Our mode was one more of continuous improvement rather than sudden and complete transformation. We accepted the constraints of the organization and instead worked vigorously to be complementary rather than adversarial. Building understanding and mutual appreciation often yielded cooperation and surprising synergies once we understood the method to each other’s madness. Overall, our guiding goals were to give the client:
Transparency: For work the client was not doing themselves, they needed to feel comfortable at all times that they can see the work progressing and being actively managed. Transparency became the foundation for trust. There was nowhere for information to hide or people for that matter. This level of transparency can be liberating for some and be the cause for serious self reflection for others. From a practical standpoint, simple raw data with minimal transformation led to better decision making at the top.
Flexibility: All flavors of Agile provide guard rails allowing the team the freedom to settle on a cadence and set of practices that works best for them. However with this project there were competing forces from external groups and their approaches to handling our requests and commitments tied to our business goals. Often in Agile teams I find the teams can become a little arrogant, wishing to bend the business to their will rather than looking at opportunities to deliver value. “Delivery over Dogma” was our mantra. By taking the stance that our approaches are expected to adapt, we lived with the mindset that change was inevitable and all we needed to focus on was managing the team through the change so it was productive and not too disruptive.Value and Quality Focused: That is not to say budget and schedule were at times more important. However, the combined teams (development and page building) actively biased their practices to focus on delivering value rather than proving compliance to some branch of Agile thinking. They also looked to blend in common open source tools and techniques that were new to the organization but helped build quality in from the start.