Agile Bodies and Corporate Antibodies


This is a review of section 6.1 Organizational Change Management in the Agile Practice Guide.   The particular topic being covered on pp. 73-74 is how organizations can either accelerate or impede the evolution of agile practices.   I used the phrase “corporate antibodies” because I heard it during a meeting of the PMI Chicagoland’s Executive Council during my tenure as the Director.  The discussion was how to create and foster an agile culture on projects.   One of the executives present said that creating an agile culture wasn’t the problem.   He said that the real problem was AFTER the project was completed.   He said that the enthusiasm and ideas from the members of the project team would start flowing into the organization, but would be stopped by what he called the “corporate antibodies”, meaning the traditional views of project management that were held by upper management.    This is just an example of how an organization can impede the evolution of agile practices.

Let’s go over the positive and negative ways an organization’s leadership can impact the spread of agile culture.

ACCELERATING AGILE CULTURE

Here’s the positive ways an organization’s leadership can influence the spread of agile culture:

  • Visible and active executive sponsorship of agile projects (their presence at kickoff meetings is an essential part of this)
  • Using communication and coaching to facilitate the change in corporate culture
  • Progressively pacing the adoption of agile practices on a project-by-project basis
  • Incremental introduction of agile practices to the team through agile coaches
  • Leading by example by having management use agile techniques and practices whenever possible

IMPEDING AGILE CULTURE

On the other hand, management can impede the spread of agile culture in the following ways:

  • Creation and maintenance of departmental silos–this creates dependencies (hand-offs between departments) that in turn prevent accelerated delivery
  • Procurement strategies based on short-term pricing strategies rather than long-term competencies
  • Leaders are rewarded for temporary efficiencies rather than the end-to-end flow of project delivery
  • Employees are not given incentives to diversify, but rather to remain specialized contributors to a project
  • Decentralized portfolios pull employees into working simultaneously on many projects at once rather than having them focused on one project at a time.

Given these two choices, management has to decide which would rather have:  agile bodies adding value to an organization, or corporate antibodies that try to prevent it…

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