Agile AdoptionAgile Methodsmanagementproject managementscrumSoftware Development

“Nothing ever changes unless there’s some pain.”

Hello All,

I am happy to have a guest blogger this week, Mr. James Adams.  He has been gracious enough to provide a contribution to this body of work.  James Adams is a Senior technology professional with a wide variety of experience implementing lean intranet and internet applications.  James has experience with team management, coaching and mentoring and is focused on pragmatic solutions with a preference for iterating feature robustness through Agile project management.  James is a Certified Scrum Practitioner and Agile evangelist.  You can view Jame’s profile on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesaadams

James writes:

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“Nothing ever changes unless there’s some pain.” — Roland Orzabal

Who would have even thought that in 1993, “Tears For Fears” lead singer Roland Orzabal was singing about Agile adoption?    All kidding aside, he wasn’t, however some of the lyrics of their track, “Good Night Song” from their album, “Elemental” could make a poignant argument about organizational need for change and the stimulus that frames out a context for many businesses to consider Agile.

I’ve read and heard of many companies who have a kneejerk reaction to Agile adoption where someone in the department cries, “heresy!” at the very thought of a paradigm shift towards thinking lean.   The opposite scenario is even more common, “Agile is the only way!!” which is probably more dangerous if the business climate for change isn’t there.    It doesn’t matter what side of the agile argument you agree with, but faith based decisions to do or do-not, make no sense without an objective reason to base your position on.

There isn’t one, primary reason to adopt Agile or any organizational change for that matter.   Companies that successfully adopt change are businesses that experience a chain of events, sometimes internally and externally which prompt change.    Many businesses have experienced a knockout punch during this recession that has exacerbated and exposed their organizational weaknesses and revealed a litany of pain points, ripening their desire to do something about it.

Is Agile the silver bullet for all of these organizations?  Odds do not support it, but many of them could gain substantial relief from adopting agile practices in an economic situation that demands more with less, quicker-better-faster and scrutinized value for money when building I.T. assets.

If you’ve read one article about the challenges of enterprise agile adoption, you’ve read them all.  I recently met some agile thought leaders at a local conference and I explained my experience with our pursuit of agile.   It was like they were checking off a list in their heads while I was explaining all the roadblocks, challenges and politics we encountered; they had seen the same list of obstacles over and over again.   Our situation was no different.

Boiling down all the obstacles to adopting change reveals the same common denominator; resistance to change when there is no organizational need for it.   If company “A” is standardized, automated, innovative, enjoys a motivated and self-empowered work force and is profitable, why would they seek to adopt any change?   The problem is that I’m not aware of many mid to larger sized companies that can boast that they are in this position.    Start-ups have many of these traits –minus profitability.   Large companies may be profitable, yet have a bloated culture of process that leaves “dollars on the table”.

Roland Orzabal could have been pining for organizational change against great odds himself when he sang:

“Time may keep alive that old swan song,
That we’ve been playing forever
Till the time may be right to say goodbye
My voice is aching, I’m tongue tied
And the sounds we are making are so uninspired”

Does this sound like you, the agent of change listening to a chorus of your colleagues who don’t want change, who resist it because the same old “song” is comfortable?   Roland makes an appeal for these folks:

“Goodnight song played so wrong
Blame the crowd, they scream so loud
so long”

I don’t find fault in their resistance if things at your company are going great.    But “great” isn’t a feeling, it’s a measurement.   So is the “feeling” that change is required.   It’s a myth without measurable events to support either case.

“Goodnight song played so wrong
Blame the crowd, they scream so loud
so long”

Don’t blame the business or your I.T. Department for the lack of inspiration or desire to transition to an agile organization; we’ve been institutionalized for decades on how to do deliver software.   Our I.T. industry has built into many corporate cultures that late delivery is acceptable and that running over budget is forgivable.   Organizational change and the discipline to sustain that change are difficult; no corporation will adopt agile or any other proven methods when they are averse to change or can stay reasonably profitable with mediocracy.

True, corporate change (agile or anything else for that matter) arises from blunt trauma to the corporate body.    Loss of revenue, sky rocketing costs, a recent reduction in force; ouch, that really hurts!   If you’re the agile evangelist at your company and your company is feeling the pain, it could be time to be bold and show some fearless leadership.

Change is good, but “nothing ever changes unless there’s some pain”.  Just ask Roland.

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