[NOTE: Over the coming weeks, the CMMI Appraiser will be sharing snippets from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.]
Jeff, why is it important to toughen up agile? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast
In my work with engineering and software professionals from a wide variety of companies, large and small, in industries like aerospace, defense, finance, transportation, energy, and manufacturing, I see a lot of the same problems repeated over and over that can be eliminated by strengthening agile or "toughening it up," as you say.
But let's take a step back for a second. One thing I started to notice a few years ago was that agile was really starting to exponentially multiply across many of my clients. As a huge advocate of Scrum and XP, I am really interested in how it delivers better software. This widespread adoption of agile is a good thing that we all want to see.
But there’s something going on with these companies that’s not so good. Even though the adoption of agile is multiplying rapidly across the industry, it is doing so in a very low-level way. The adoption of agile has been broad, but not tall.
In other words, project teams all over the world are adopting agile, but their management is not engaged. Their management is not understanding why agile is a good thing. So while organizations everywhere are adopting agile techniques, the businesses themselves are not changing to be agile.
This is a problem. In some areas of the company, there are software teams using Scrum and XP and other methods. In other areas of companies, they are not using those methods. Instead, they are using business methods that are in conflict with agility.
Why does this matter? A lot of big, large-scale adopters – such as the DOD, the federal government sectors and many of the big contractors – are starting to request more projects be run using agile, because they have heard it's a good thing. But if you take a look at their procurement or marketing and sales or senior management, they have no concept of why agility is a good idea.
They haven't figured out what it is, but they think they want it. So they give their suppliers mixed messages, such as: "We want you to be agile. But instead of doing this daily standup thing, can't you do it once a month? Because you're wasting my time by making me come to this. And can't you give that Microsoft Project work plan with 900 lines in it? All I ask is that you plan this project out. And be agile.”
So, while we hear these large adopters saying, "We want you to be agile," what they are really saying is: "We want you to work faster and cheaper. Truthfully, we don't really understand what this agile thing is, but we want you to be it.”
This is a problem. Organizations like this are driving change into the agile community. Unless we get serious about making agile resilient, the changes they impose will be detrimental to the future of agile.
For those who would like to know more about toughening up agile and making agile resilient, we invite you to sign up for our August 7, 2014 Webinar: Agile Resiliency: Scaling Agile so that it Thrives & Survives.
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Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.