Tuesday, November 4, 2014

SPaMCast Question 11: What two things should engineers do to make agile more resilient?

Jeff, if you could wave a magic wand and cause people to do two things to make agile more resilient, what would those two things be and why? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

[NOTE: Over the past several weeks, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts 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.

Tom, if I could wave a magic wand and cause people to do two things that would make agile more resilient, I’d have them focus more clearly on their values and their mental model for agile. If they were able to change their focus in these two important ways, they’d find that the path to greatness is not an illusion!

Let’s break down these how these two "magic tricks" can transform any organization into a great organization.

First, the values. I would encourage C-level executives and senior management to focus whole-heartedly on the values of your company. I mean real values, not just token values stamped out in sheet metal and attached to the conference room wall that no one ever looks at. The real values that inform the way you do what you do.

For example, if your aspiration is to be a company with great agility, focus on agile values throughout your organization. This means everywhere, not just engineering. It means purchasing - especially purchasing! It means marketing and sales, operations and manufacturing. To be a company with great agility, you need to focus on agile values, and make sure everyone in the organization is clear on what is expected of them as it pertains to those values. They would need to change their focus to live and breathe their values. That would be my first magic trick.

The second would be to help people understand, through training and coaching, how to adopt a mental model around these agile values. The mental model would give them a construct for using tools like CMMI and ISO in the way that they were intended to be used, so that we can improve and get better and better. This really is the trick to making our company more successful. It’s the trick to making our careers more successful, as well. When people really understand how to create and maintain a mental model for continuous improvement, it's a win-win for everybody.

But here's the real magic, Tom: You don’t need a wand to make it happen! You need a strong desire to improve on what you’re already doing. If I woke up tomorrow and there was no magic wand, I'd do the same thing I always do. I'd make sure our values were defined, understood and embraced throughout the organization. And I'd create a mental model for adopting a flexible, agile approach to the CMMI that fits within my company's particular situation.

This is sometimes easier said than done, so if anyone following this interview is interested in learning more about applying the lessons of CMMI and agile to be a great company, they are certainly invited to participate in our upcoming Webinar: “Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives.” The Webinar is happening on November 6, 2014 from 12-1PM EST.

Click here to register for the Webinar.

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

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.

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