Ask the Authors
Q: As a company that has never tested or adopted an Agile approach, how do we get started? Can we adopt some parts of Agile and not others?
Author Darrell Rigby responds: You raise two important questions. Too many executives get the answer to both wrong, and then falsely conclude that Agile doesn’t make much of a difference.
It’s easy to assume that because early Agile teams are experiments, we should start with insignificant pilots that won’t matter if they fail. But if we do that, proper funding becomes difficult, good people refuse to join the teams, no senior executives finds the time to engage, and non-Agile parts of the organization complain that Agile teams are stealing their resources, making their lives harder, and adding little value. Clearly, these pilots are doomed to fail, but should they somehow succeed, it’s unlikely anybody will care or be convinced that Agile can work in more important areas.
That’s why we recommend starting with high-priority initiatives, identified based on their:
- Importance to corporate strategic priorities
- Impact on customer loyalty and employee engagement
- Contributions to filling key capability gaps
- Financial returns (cost of delay, net present value, return on investment, payback)
- Benefits to other key initiatives
- Ability to access required resources (people and other assets)
Launch Agile teams only when they’re truly ready to begin, meaning they are:
- Supported by senior executives
- Focused on a major business opportunity
- Responsible for specific outcomes
- Resourced with dedicated, multidisciplinary experts
- Committed to applying Agile values
- Trusted to work autonomously
- Able to create rapid prototypes
- Empowered to collaborate closely with customers
Cutting corners to get going sooner seldom pans out. Using part-time people rather dedicated team members is a classic example. Multitasking kills both productivity and commitment. Simultaneously working on three projects reduces our effective capacity by 40%. Adding a fourth project kills another 20%. Research shows that Agile teams with fully dedicated members are nearly twice as productive as teams of members that are 50%—or less―dedicated. If this data isn’t sufficiently convincing, we recommend testing and learning. Set up two teams, one with part-time members and the other with dedicated members. Compare the results over 6 to 12months. It won’t take long to prove the benefits of doing Agile right.