Implementing Agile: Start with a Mindset

I’ve been going through the Agile Practice Guide and I’m excited about starting chapter 4 today.   Why?

Well, the first three chapters were, respectively, an

  • Introduction–to the Agile Practice Guide itself
  • Introduction (to Agile–showing the 4 values and 12 principles of agile
  • Life Cycle Selection–comparing and contrasting agile with the other three life cycles of project management (predictive or traditional, iterative, and incremental; with agile combining characteristics of both the iterative and incremental life cycles)

With all of that preliminary material out of the way, the fourth chapter goes into Implementing Agile:  Creating an Agile Environment

The first step is to have your project team adopt an agile mindset.   There are five questions that the Agile Alliance recommends you discuss with the project team in order to help develop an implementation strategy.

  • How can the project team act in an agile manner?  (review the 4 values of the Agile Manifesto)
  • What can the team deliver quickly and obtain early feedback to benefit the next delivery cycle?   (This is the “incremental” part of the agile life cycle)
  • How can the team act in a transparent manner?  (Is there a common space to be used by the team?  Is there a visual way such as a Kanban Board to picture the workflow, the members of the team working on various aspects of the work, and to identify barriers?)
  • What work can be avoided in order to focus on high-priority items?   (This is what I call the “negative carving of the elephant” process, where you create a sculpture of an elephant by looking at the block of marble before you, picturing within the marble the image of an elephant as the final product, and then systematically carving away those bits of marble that are not an elephant.)
  • How can a servant-leadership approach benefit the achievement of the team’s goals?   (This is most important for the project manager to reflect on:  a servant leader on an agile team is NOT the same role as a project manager on a traditional project team.)

This last point is so very important that the Agile Alliance Guide spends the next few pages on this.   I will devote on the next posts to the following topics contained on those pages 33-37.

  • Servant leadership empowers the team
  • Servant leader responsibilities
  • Servant leaders facilitate
  • Servant leaders remove organizational impediments
  • Servant leaders pave the way for others’ contributions

This discussion of the role of servant leader in an agile environment with then be contrasted with the project manager role in a traditional project management environment.

Let us go to the next post, which discusses the concept of “servant leadership.”  It seems like a contradiction in terms to have a leader who is actually a servant.   Within this seeming contradiction, however, is the heart of what it means to lead an agile project.


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