Angela JohnsonThank you to everyone who attended the “What is Agile Leadership?” webinar, hosted by Angela Johnson, PMP, PMI-ACP, CST. If you missed it or would like to review, check out the recording.

In the webinar, the concept of Agile Leadership was discussed and how Agile Leaders play a critical role in an organization. Agile Leaders assist the organization changes to structure and process any Agile transformation. They are also instrumental in fostering a shared vision, removing obstacles, enabling self-organizing teams, and motivating and inspiring the organization to better serve their customers. See below for questions that came up during and after the webinar.

Q. Do you typically see the business analyst as the Product Owner or is it someone from the business area?

A. It is typically someone from the business. The Product Owner has the authority to make decisions. This is defined in the Scrum Guide as someone whose decisions are not overturned.  It is rare that a company is willing to give that level of authority to a business analyst.

Q. Does the Kanban board indirectly support the concept of individual roles rather than team responsibility for analysis and testing?

A. The board itself cannot support the concept of individual roles. If this is happening, it’s the creator of the board and the lack of understanding of radiating information in a Scrum team. It’s a team board – not individual roles.  The work, or tasks, to get the Product Backlog Items done may be self-selected by the team members.  Team members may work on these in pairs, they may swarm on them, or work on them individually, but the board represents the team’s Sprint Goal in Scrum.

Q. Does Agile change the practice of outsourcing development?

A. Agile approaches do not require outsourcing development nor do they state not to. This is a company decision.

Q. Does the use of Agile within an organization increase the risk of errors going into production for software and applications (i.e., because the requirements are completed over time)?

A. No. The risk actually goes down because the intent is to identify what done means and to test for it incrementally and iteratively constantly rather than waiting to do this “big bang” at the end.

Q. Why there is there more emphasis on Agile leadership recently, though the concept of Agile, Lean, Scrum, etc. exists from early 2000?

A. As Agile has moved into mainstream, more and more people are choosing to work this way. A lack of understanding about the Agile frameworks noted in your question has been identified by the very leadership who is asking their people to work this new way. Many of the impediments in Agile adoptions or transformations come from an organizational unwillingness to change the processes, structures, etc. required to deliver business value faster with Agile. When leaders are educated and coached, far greater success with Agile is experienced.

Q. How do you handle, for example, QA Discipline, the tools and processes the Scrum teams need to use?

A. If by QA Discipline, what is meant is testing, this is just an activity that the Scrum team is to perform inside of each Sprint on the items they have pulled into that Sprint. The team self-organizes getting all of the work done, including testing. The people involved will decide the processes and tools – that means those involved in the company and in the teams.  The Agile Manifesto reminds us in the first value “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.”

Q. How have you seen the SAFe model help (or hurt) creating a culture of agility?

A. Personally, I have experienced the SAFe model hurt a culture of agility. It is overly prescriptive and requires hierarchies and structures that most true Agile frameworks seek to breakdown.

Q. Is Agile a strategy or methodology?

A. Neither. It is more of a philosophy. It has values and principles so is not prescriptive like either strategies or methodologies.

Q. Is Agile a more stressful environment and how do you reduce stress?

A. My experience is that it less stressful due to the transparency of the work done, transparency of the work in process, transparency of the impediments, and the team-based nature of working. People get to work together instead of feeling like they have to do everything themselves in singular role-based ways of working.

Q. Could Agile be utilized for highly regulated environments, e.g. medical software regulated by FDA?

A. Yes. Many have successfully passed all kinds of audits even though Agile was used, including SOX, PCI and event FDA. In fact, the American Association of Medical Instruments (AAMI) has a white paper available advising how to best use Agile to pass FDA audits.

Agile Training & CoachingQ. What do you do differently in Scrum if daily meetings, ceremonies, and retrospective take so much time and destruction that there is no time left for coding?

A. In order to best answer, I would need to know more about the situation, but this should not be the case. The time boxes for the ceremonies are clear in the Scrum Guide, which leaves more than enough time to do work. Now, if ceremonies are running longer than recommended where you work, why is this?  Is your organization asking that you work the old way plus this Agile way?  In other words, what other meetings are people asked to go to that are getting in the way?

Q. For organization perspective, if one wants to adopt Agile, does that change the organization’s rules or policy?

A. No. Agile method prescribes any organization rule, policy, or structure. That is up to the organization.  The bigger question to ask here is what problem are you trying to solve?  Do the current rules or policies support delivering value to the customers more effectively?  Or prohibit it?

Q. What is the role of a Business Analyst’s duties when the organization wants to adopt Agile?

A. It depends on what is meant by adopt Agile. Is the organization adopting Scrum or XP? In these frameworks, there is still work to do but the roles change.  In Scrum, there are no roles.  The team works on the activities needed to be done in a self-organizing way.  In XP, the roles are Customer, XP Coach, Programmer, Tester, and Tracker.  A choice would have to be made by this person about what they would like to do to add value.  If the organization is simply adopting the values and principles in the Agile Manifesto but not choosing any one framework, it is less defined.

Q. Our development team is Agile, but we’re building an ERP app from the ground up and I keep hearing that an ERP application from start to finish cannot be built using Agile. But this thing is huge and we’ll never get it to the customer otherwise. Any suggestions on changing that thought, or is that actually valid?

A. Any Agile approach is just a different way to do work. ERP applications are just work. This is something that probably cannot be answered this simply in an email, but the team in question could try embracing the values and principles in the Agile Manifesto if it does not want to alter the traditional roles.  If the people involved have chosen to use Scrum, there has to be a willingness on everyone’s part to abandon the old roles and learn new skills helping each other out.  There tends to be resistance to this in an ERP situation due to years of specialization.  I have seen it done successfully in an Oracle ERP scenario, but there was a team of people completely willing to learn new skills and to cross-train each other.

Q. What is meant by ‘test everyone’?

A. Test early, test often, test everyone means that, in any Agile environment, testing occurs all the time and anyone available and willing to test can. It’s not a singular role, department, etc.

Q. Of all the potential obstacles shared, are there any that should be addressed as a priority to improve success?

A. In my opinion, it’s dedicating the teams and ceasing the practice of time-slicing people, forcing them to try to work on multiple projects at a time.

Q. What is your advice on the best way to convince management and team that Agile does not mean “NO DOCUMENTATION”? We still require efficient documentation to support the Agile process.

A. Ensure that transparency is practiced and that the very management in question is invited to Sprint Reviews to see the real working product. Ensure that documentation is occurring just enough, just in time, and that any outcomes that need to be captured are and that these are transparently shared with management. Nothing will convince them like showing them.

Q. What is your advice for organizations with presence in over 30 countries with cross-continent projects – how do we make Agile work when we cannot be co-located?

A. This is something that cannot be simply answered in an email. The first question is what is meant by “Agile”? This could mean Scrum, eXtreme Programming, DSDM, RAD, Kanban, etc., or it could mean unbranded Agile where there is a commitment to the Values and Principles in the Agile Manifesto.  From there, the respective frameworks would need to be adopted as intended with the understanding that things simply will go slower due to the physical distribution, time zones, language, and cultural barriers, etc.  The bigger question is why is Agile being considered?  In other words, what is the benefit that is being sought?  If it’s to ‘go faster,’ the reality may be that this is not achievable unless there is a commitment to have whole teams in respective time zones.

Q. Can you give an example of when a traditional method would be better applied than an Agile method?

A. When there is a high degree of knowns and the problem attempted to be solved is simple, any method (traditional) will work. Stamping out parts on an assembly line, for example. When there is a high degree of unknowns, Agile approaches tend to work better due to the transparent and adaptive nature of them; they allow for course correcting or learning as you go.

Q. Can organizations successfully use both methods depending on the line of business or other distinction?

A. It depends on what is meant here by ‘successfully’. In many ways, traditional ways of working directly contradict Agile approaches. The risk any organization that chooses a ‘hybrid’ faces is setting up a culture clash within the organization.  There is also the risk that people who only choose to work in an Agile way leave to go to work at an organization that does not have this type of mixed culture.

Q. Agile in Enterprise (75K+ people). Is it realistic?

A. This is more than likely referring to “scaling”. It is unclear from your question if you are referring to an entire company or some sort of project or product. There are many ways to “scale” Agile or Scrum as a way of doing work.  For more information, you may want to look into Large Scale Scrum from Craig Larman or Scrum at Scale from Jeff Sutherland.

Q. Budgets are one of the biggest obstacles to Agile adoption. What do you recommend to overcome the inability to truly predict a “DONE” solution in terms of money and time because of the limitations of “requirements-as-you-go?

A. Budgeting and Scheduling become easier in an Agile adoption, not necessarily harder. With every Sprint or Iteration in Agile, we are able to show how much time the desired Scope will take to deliver and how much money has been spent due to the stable nature of the teams and the length of the Sprint or Iterations. It is data driven, not a guess.  For more information, you may want to look into Release Planning.

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