Monday, May 14, 2012

How can we switch to an agile software development lifecycle without causing project delays?

Hey CMMI Appraiser, we are a large software engineering firm in Ohio that uses the CMMI-DEV. For over a decade, we have used our own software development lifecycle, and recently decided to switch to Scrum.  I’m concerned about how we can help our engineers make this big change without causing project delays.  What should we do? ~ Chris H.

Chris, as more companies are adopting agile software development methods, the CMMI Appraiser has received a steady stream of questions about managing this change.  One of the leading experts on this topic is Julie Calfin, a Senior CMMI Consultant with Broadsword.  Julie does amazing work with companies who are undergoing large scale business transformation. Take it away, Julie! ~ The CMMI Appraiser

Thank you, CMMI Appraiser!

Chris, as I explained in my last blog post, Organizational Change Management techniques can help people change their behavior quickly with minimal disruption – and reach the mountain peak together.  We like to think of it as a Journey to Commitment.

To help us visualize the journey and how we will guide people through major changes, we use a tool called the Commitment Curve (above).  In the case of your software engineering firm, Chris, the Commitment Curve maps the upward journey your staff will experience on their way to accepting and committing to Scrum.

So let’s begin our trek up the mountain, one step at a time:

CONTACT – at the first step, it’s your job as management to reach out to every segment of the organization to announce a change is coming.  Be sure to use powerful examples to explain why your firm needs to make this change.  For example, announce the adoption of Scrum at an all-hands meeting.  Explain that an agile software development life cycle will enable your firm to develop working software that is consistently delivered on time and within budget.

AWARNESS – here is where your people start to climb.  They develop some awareness and knowledge of the program and the fact that it will affect the way they do their work.  People may gain awareness by participating in a program kick-off meeting on designing your new processes.  Note: we don’t want to weigh people down with too much detail at this point, or they may choose to exit the process (i.e. fall off the mountain).

UNDERSTANDING – as they gradually ascend the slope, folks come to identify with the change.  They see themselves in the change, and understand how it impacts them and the role they have.  You can help them with this by explaining the specific changes that will be required for each role.  For example, your Project Manager will need to go to Scrum Master training to learn how to use agile processes.

POSTIVE PERSPECTION – notice, each step up the curve brings us to a new choice point.  For example, your Project Manager can choose to perceive the change as good (“Our new estimating processes are going to help me be more accurate with my estimates”).  Or, she could just as easily decide that this new estimating process is too much work, or too time-consuming.  At this point in the commitment journey, you may want to use recognition and rewards to reinforce desired behaviors and to discourage unwanted behaviors.

ADOPTION – adoption is what we’re going for.  This is where our process users begin to adopt the agile techniques as their own.  Tactics like training, mentoring, and PPQA evaluations will accelerate the adoption of your new processes.  You will know your new processes are being adopted when you hear people say things like:   “Using our new agile development processes makes my job so much easier,” and “Be sure you train the new guy to use our agile processes.”

INSTITUTIONALIZATION – it takes some time and some critical mass of people who have adopted the new processes for the business transformation to become accepted as “our way of doing business.”  Institutionalization requires leadership to establish a clear process usage policy and reinforce this policy with their hiring and promotion decisions.

INTERNALIZATION – the mountain peak of process adoption – or any change – is when the change becomes part of the culture of your company.  With your agile process adoption, a symptom of internalization is when people begin improving upon it.  Use the CMMI practices in OPF, IPM, OPD, and others to continuously improve your new agile software development processes.

That’s the journey to commitment, Chris.  By having an OCM Strategy that includes tactics like communication, training, and performance management, you can move your engineers systematically through the stages of change and keep your team firmly on the path to greatness.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Julie Calfin is a Senior CMMI Consultant with BroadswordSolutions Corporation. She has years of real world experience using OCM strategy and tactics to help her clients achieve their goals. Julie also uses the CMMI, in partnership with her clients, to set-up, monitor, and sustain process improvement programs.

Visit for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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