APLN Leadership Summit on “Leading Agile Adoption” a Success!

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APLN Leadership Summit on “Leading Agile Adoption” a Success!

Leading Agile Adoption – what does it take to transform an organization to a completely new and very different way of working? This was the theme for the first stand alone National APLN Leadership Summit in Richmond on October 18th, 2007. The full day event brought together leaders from companies such as Salesforce.com, Wachovia, Genworth, PPH, Headwaters, BMC Software, and many others. Along with my fellow event Committee members, I feel the event was very successful, and I invite everyone engaged in adopting Lean and Agile in their organization to attend future summit events.

If you are building new business capabilities, how do you determine where to invest? Give a list of 1000 requirements, which are most important, and which should you be buying and NOT building? This was the subject of the keynote by Niel Nickolaisen, CIO and Director of Strategic Planning, Headwaters, Inc. Neil’s take on strategy is that it should define the lens by which you can quickly decide what is critical to your customers. Niel demonstrated a model that the audience could take a use to make value judgments on features, or even a project portfolio. A number of audience members were applying the model at the conference on their current projects, and making some very interesting findings. It is not often that you can apply the ideas in a talk immediately, but, like many people in the Agile community, Niel is looking to spread his innovations and raise the level of the game Agile companies bring to the table. In discussions with Niel, we compared his model with the Hedgehog concept, a model from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. The two tools are complementary in that the Hedgehog concept helps better define what is differentiating in your business, while Niel’s model helps define what strategy should be taken with the other non-differentiating projects and work. More information on Niel’s model is available in his presentation, which will be available in the next couple weeks. The Innovel Product Owner course will benefit from Niel’s ideas, as we see them as a great addition to the Product Owner’s toolkit.

Israel Gat is a Vice President at BMC Software, where, after 3 years into the Agile adoption journey, they now feel their teams are starting to really get how to be Agile. It is no surprise for us that 3 years into it they still are learning. The continuous improvement, the application of lean, and the changes the test driven development and automation bring to a software company fundamentally change how people work. This change takes time to implement, and in turn requires cascading changes throughout the organization. The talk focussed on these cascading changes, and how the teams at BMC Software are outpacing the ability of the Marketing and Sales department to do their traditional campaigns for these new capabilities. As often happens, the first reaction at BMC was to ask the 500+ person development organization to “Slow Down!” This often is how people react when Agile and speed starts to fundamentally alter a company’s structure. In BMC’s case, they rejected the call to slow down and started thinking hard about the competitive advantage this new speed could give them. BMC is applying speed to allow them to create custom version of their products for strategic customers, allowing an unheard of level of service in their market. The really clever thing is that BMC is bypassing the Sales and Marketing department, realizing that speed can allow them to deliver new custom differentiated features directly to the customer without the need to invest in marketing these capabilities to whole market. The challenge we see for BMC is that, as Toyota first found a way to use one assembly line for many different types of cars, BMC will need to ruthlessly tackle complexity. Supporting many customers with different custom tailored features must not undo the speed advantage they have created with their Agile delivery system.


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Agile 2007 Day 1

Today we offered the first public class of our Product Owner Training as a tutorial at Agile 2007. We had 40 people in the 3.5 hour tutorial that was presented by Mark Pushinsky and myself. The session was very well received by the participants, who had a high level of engagement with the exercises and material. The Product Owner Framework developed by Dymond and Pushinsky is based in part on Jim Collins’ fantastic book Good to Great. The Hedge Hog Principle, a foundation for all of the Good to Great companies drives clarity of purpose throughout the business. It gives a single economic metric with which to measure decisions and investment. The business case study includes determining the Hedgehog concept for this business, and using this information to influence the backlog creation process. This innovation, combined with a product owner framework that transitions the business case to a flexible product backlog and release plan allows participants to really get a feel for the decisions that will need to make as Product owners. With less that 40 slides, most of the time is spent working in groups and learning from the hands on exercises. As instructors we try to keep a class engaged with both the material and their colleagues, both within their group and outside of it. The strategy seems to work as their is a clear emotional engagement by the end of the session. We plan to offer this training with additional valuable material in the future, please let us know if you are interested in this training for your customer team. You can find an earlier version of the session materials on the Agile 2007 web site.


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Why Agile and Lean? Why Change?

Many IT centric business executives are starting to hear about Agile, and wonder if it is something they should implement. A key to adopting Lean and Agile is having a clear and pressing issue to motivate people to change. We like to refer to this as “the burning platform.” In most organizations people become comfortable. Comfortable with there position, comfortable with their role, and even with their cubicle. Agile changes all that. It makes people uncomfortable. At least initially, then, most start to really like this new way of working. However the burning platform is the energy source that drives the motivation for people to put up with their discomfort, to suppress their resistance to change. What is your burning platform? Why will you adopt Agile?


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