Educating the Organization on Agile

It was pretty clear that, despite my efforts to explain to department heads the direction development would be going, they weren’t getting it. People seemed puzzled that we couldn’t drop everything and do spot-work on whatever bug annoyed them at the moment, and the CEO of the startup kept using ‘sprint’ as though it meant ‘hurry.’ As in, ‘you guys are sprinting hard, right?’ Educating an organization on Agile methodology is no easy task, and it is a major hurdle to accomplishing an Agile transformation.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to me was how ingrained the waterfall methodology was in people’s minds. The product manager understood that she was supposed to prioritize tasks, but then she went on to assign them to developers and define precisely what was supposed to go into the sprint. That isn’t Agile.

That role, which recently ended for me with the successful relaunch of the website, was one in which much was accomplished. We did get into a rhythm of two-week sprints, daily standups, once-per-sprint retrospectives and planning meetings. We started using JIRA and became effective at pushing out finished work. We fell down on reporting, as I was trying to be Agile (which calls for sprint reviews) and my supervisor wanted ‘release notes,’ but the record of our accomplishments can be found in JIRA and the ‘finished’ product (is anything online ever ‘finished?).

Looking back, I think I could have been more firm in laying down the Agile guidelines. It needs to be done ‘by the book’ before any modifications should be made. The organizational dynamic and internal politics militated against that, but in the end, all I had to lose was my job.

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