It was too good to be true! After 4 sprints, we are maintaining our cruising speed and the team is still motivated in delivering value. On the other hand, it’s at the organizational level that it is difficult. It began with people disturbing the team. Project managers were coming to ask questions, then to “borrow” members from our team during a sprint on the pretext that their projects had a higher priority. Then, the project management office (PMO) put pressure on our Scrum Master to standardize his indicators and use the business templates, which correspond more specifically to traditional approaches, known as waterfall. Management is also asking for a fixed date, scope, and budget. Finally, since the development team’s self-sufficiency has increased, I’ve been asked by management to be closer to users (they are all across Canada and the USA), which is difficult to reconcile with my role of Product Owner dedicated to the project… The team’s Scrum Master does not know how to overcome these obstacles. In brief, the company’s reality is getting back to us and, if this keeps up, I’m afraid that even Agility will not save the project.
I do not feel like letting fall down what we have built together. I decided to talk to top management about these organizational issues. I asked Gilles, our team coach, to come to the meeting with me and first to help me get ready for it. We presented to executives the gains we made since the beginning of the project: team confidence, accountability, improved relations between business people and IT people, users’ involvement…We explained that these gains couldn’t be taken for granted and were still fragile. If we want to succeed with this change, winning conditions are required and must be protected. Management is in; they want to give a real chance to the Agile initiative. They ensure that the team is stable, dedicated, and that it will not be disturbed continuously. They also asked the PMO to wait until the end of the pilot project to compare the new tools used with the ones in place and see how they can be adjusted for a greater simplicity and efficiency. Furthermore, to prevent such situations from occurring, we suggested to hold a governance meeting at the end of each sprint to address the organizational obstacles and stakes.
During the meeting with top management, we rapidly realized that Agility is still unclear for many and that it makes them feel insecure, because they do not really understand Agile methods and what they imply. Several managers said they wished to take the “Agile for managers” course to find out more about Agility and to better support the Agile transition. Also, it has been planned that teams and individuals taking part directly or indirectly in the pilot project will take a basic course on Agile approaches.
I am proud of how the meeting went. I’m happy that management is really supporting us in the implementation of Agility. I am convinced that what happened was useful. We hit the wall, and we succeed together in getting over it. With sounder foundations, that augurs well for what is to follow!