Agile implementation, the new diet pill?


Rune Ulvnes

Picture from Brage Ulvmoen,

We who have worked with agile for many years loves the hyped attention agile is getting, but at the same time this has a bitter taste. If you think that the SAFe (R) or Spotify model can radically change your company, you are in danger of being disappointed.

We humans are weird creatures as we choose simple solutions to complicated problems. And I’m not any better myself. Luckily, it is a few years ago, and I might blame youthful impatience. I have once in my life tried diet pills. I started getting the extra few pounds after I got a girlfriend, and was tempted by the advertising for the new and revolutionary “fat blocker” tablets. I knew that the only thing that worked was eating less and exercising more. But this tablet technology was new, and the promises were great, so what if they are working? A box of tablets later I felt unwell, just as voluminous, and disappointed with myself.

We all know this, complicated problems get a simple solution. For many years, all businesses should have new portals, and these portals should make us customer-friendly, innovative, and eliminate all interaction issues. The only ones who made money from these projects were the vendors, and many of the customers have realized that innovation and interaction issues do not have a simple fix. If your employees prefer to sit in their own office, then SharePoint will not bring these together. It would have been really nice if it happened, but unfortunately it doesn’t, and you know it. You also need to reorganize, coach employees, create new interaction arenas, and look at the corporate culture and how the management team works. But still there is something in you that chooses the simple solution.

Agile is painful.

Implementing agile methodology requires that each employee start looking at himself/herself, and start working in new ways. We need to change the organization, we have to change roles, and we have to learn a lot of new skills. Agile is no easy solution, but gives us a new direction. For CoWork, agile thinking leads us to work together with our customers in a new way, but it is easier said than done. We all have a history of requirements specifications and distrust that we bring along whether we want or not.

I’ve also seen results of simplified agile implementation. Suddenly you sit in cross functional teams looking at each other, wondering who will be the first to start working smart. At the same time, one comes into conflict with what previously caused the company to function: the platform team, the operations department, the architects and the product managers. I do think that agile change projects are possible, and in the beginning one should copy a “best practice” to get started. But the best agile transformation projects bring with them all employees and leave no loyal employees in the cold, just because they once accepted the job as ITIL coordinator or middle manager.

I myself believe in a balanced agile journey where we learn the essence of agile while working on continuous improvement. But I realize that this is a boring message, as this requires hard work. But I know that if a customer joins a “simplified” agile implementation project, then you get problems along the way and lack of results as a consequence. And it is probably this dilemma that many struggle with, it is difficult to buy a complicated message while at the same time a simple message undermines the journey of change.

The absolute funniest projects I have been with are when we acknowledge that there is a long way to go, but that we want to go together. I get my kicks when the consequences of our change projects start coming in: the employees that are happier at work, and the improvement in financial results. So I guess I have to comfort myself with the fact that different diet tablets come and go, but the desire to lose weight consists.

Happy agile implementation!


Agile implementation, the new diet pill? was originally published in
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