Agile Process

Cutcaster photo 100202812 Frustrated woman with incompetent mechanic in backgroundI was out at Agile Prague earlier this week. There were many great presentations on building up better processes and a particularly interesting one by Linda Rising on the introduction of agile into organizations. However in talking with many of the people during breaks and dinners etc especially attendees I noticed different problems that people were having in real life.

They had the wrong people

No amount of process will fix this problem. If I take a bunch of people that don’t know how to actually produce decent code that works my process won’t fix it. They can’t actually build the wrong thing let alone the right thing if they can figure it out. I might be able to get away with teaching them to actually produce but now I have bigger issues. Can you imagine if you had to teach your mechanic how to change your oil so that he could actually change yours?

Its feasible to train such a team but it will be very expensive and time consuming, this should only be done in the worst case where other options are politically unavailable for some reasons (yes government sector I’m looking at you)

If a team is unable to produce instead of attempting to introduce small incremental changes. Consider making really big changes (like getting rid of a large portion of the team).

I think we should really at conferences be spending more time talking about big changes and how to know when to use them. We should also spend more time talking about how to build a team of the right people. I know this is not as interesting of a topic but it seems there are many more people with this issue than those in cases where they have a well executing team that they want to improve.


  1. Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    This is spot on. I think many people, myself included, thought that agile can ‘fix’ stuff…if only we wrote our stories a certain way…if only we groom our stories before the sprint…if only we practice outside-in BDD…etc. In the end it always comes down to the people. It’s much better to have 1 talented person than 10 average ones. The only thing agile does is tell you early on that you have the wrong people…and only if you know what to look for.

  2. Parajao
    Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    One of the problem is to convince the Project Manager that Agile processes really improve the quality and reduce the costs (to say a few of benefits) of software development; if PM is not really convinced who will choose the right people?

    • Posted September 6, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I hope the PM is not choosing people in any case πŸ˜‰

      • Parajao
        Posted September 9, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        One can be amazed for the strange things that happen…here our PM is choosing people :/

  3. Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    @parajao you need the right people before even looking at it πŸ™‚

    • Parajao
      Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink | Reply

      It always ends up with right people. Peolple writes and uses software; there’s something funny in having people central in software concerns.
      P.S.: I really like the way you rise new perspectives on problems. Thank you.

  4. Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    @parajao also look for videos of Linda’s talk (this is what she was discussing).

    • Parajao
      Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink | Reply

      I won’t miss them.

  5. Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink | Reply

    It might seem expensive at the time but it can have a big strategic pay-off. Think of it as stop-the-line at an organisational scale. Toyota famously went into their suppliers’ factories, rented factory floor space from them and had their own staff teach their suppliers Lean supply. They had realised one of their bottlenecks was batching and starvation of supplies, which was outside of their control. They are effectively teaching their competitors how to be more competitive, but still get the bigger pay-off.

    Of course the supplier has got to want to become more competitive, which speaks to your comment about government sector πŸ™‚

  6. Posted September 6, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink | Reply

    @Dan that sounds like a situation where they couldn’t do anything else. Its like the famous “no bid contracts” in Iraq and Afghanistan that people were up in a roar about. When there is only one or two companies in the world that can do the job bidding becomes silly πŸ™‚

  7. Posted September 9, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It is possible for the PM to select the people, if they already work at the organization. If they are new hires, it’s silly for the PM to select the people. The people should be selecting themselves.

    If they had the wrong people, it could be not *just* a skill fit, but a cultural fit problem. Some of the people on the project, possibly even all of them, didn’t fit the culture of the organization, and could not deliver.

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