Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Agile Is Fragile? Really?

Hey CMMI Appraiser, “Agile is Fragile?” Really? ~ Roland

Dear Readers,

In our recent webinar, "Agile Resiliency: Scaling Agile So That It Thrives and Survives," we presented a concept that was new for some, the idea of utilizing the architectural strengths of the CMMI to make Agile more resilient to change and large-scale corporate pressure. We received many questions, which I promised to answer right here on this blog, starting today. ~ the CMMI Appraiser 

Dear Roland,

Yes, I said it, and I meant it. Agile is fragile. If we want Agile to survive, we need a Resilient Agile Architecture because Agile is about to get crushed.

The good news is, Agile is undeniably on track to be the most popular and fastest-growing set of methods for software development in the world. Companies of all sizes are hearing about the benefits of Agile, and are starting to adopt the techniques. This means that Agile developers, like you, have done a great job spreading the word. But the downside is, you’ve attracted the attention of a few new adopters.

These new adopters happen to be very large organizations.  They have decided that, strategically, they are going to start running their projects using Agile methods. Some of the biggest newcomers in our industry right now are General Motors, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Just thinking about the sheer size of these organizations can be mind-boggling. General Motors is one of the largest companies in the world. They already employ thousands of IT professionals, and they've announced they are hiring even more. When they announced that they were putting Agile front and center of all of their software development, and that they would in-source much of their IT, they created openings for thousands more IT professionals.

These organizations have the largest IT and engineering spend of any organizations on the planet. For example, General Motors, the Department of Defense, and Veterans Affairs have a combined external spend of close to $10B for IT and engineering.  There is a tremendous amount of momentum and influence from these organizations.

We have an old saying in the automotive industry, where I’ve been working for 30 years: “Suppliers don’t change General Motors, General Motors changes suppliers.”

The same problem happens when working with the Department of Defense. A supplier can have all the best intentions and the right way of going about things, but they will eventually get changed.

One of my favorite writers on IT and engineering systems from the 70s, Gerald M. Weinberg, had a phrase for this phenomenon. He called it “getting pickled in the brine.”

Oh, you can try to resist. You can try to stay a cool Agile cucumber. You can go into an organization like a General Motors and have the best intention of being Agile, and running projects in an Agile manner. But these big organizations have a lot of momentum and weight behind what they’re doing. They have a lot of cultural differences with your company -- a lot of brine.

Make no mistake. They will change the way you behave.  Not because they don't want to be Agile - but because they are NOT Agile.

This is a big problem for our industry, because, as I said, Agile is fragile. Agile is new. Agile is young. We all have great intentions to run our project using fixed time boxes based on negotiated sprint backlogs, to negotiate scope and perform backlog grooming, to conduct sprint demos and retrospectives, and all the things that those of us who are passionate about Agile think are important. But we get sidetracked by our big customers. The ones who are decidedly NOT agile.

I'll say it again.  Agile is fragile. We need to strengthen it with tools like the CMMI to create a "Resilient Agile Architecture,” which keeps us focused on what's most important to our business and our process, and ultimately, our product.  It keeps us Agile.

Did you miss the webinar? Soon we will announce the REPLAY of "Agile Resiliency: Scaling Agile So That It Thrives and Survives.”  Be sure to check back.

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

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, ScrumMaster, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff pioneered agileCMMI, the leading methodology for incremental and iterative process improvement. He has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation , software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

To download eBooks about CMMI, visit Jeff’s Author Page on Amazon.

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