Aug 312017

Agile Everywhere, Part II

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about the Agile methodology on this blog. For those of you who are regular readers, you may remember a post I wrote about our Agile Everywhere initiative— where all Return Path teams were tasked with implementing agile practices. A little over a year later, I want to update you on our agile journey–where we are now and how we got there.  My colleague Cathy Hawley (our head of People) will write a more detailed series of guest posts  for those of you who want to get more details of our transformation process.

Before we started our Agile Everywhere initiative, only our product and engineering teams were using agile. The rest of the organization (a few hundred people!) weren’t at all familiar with agile practices. Despite this, there were a few things that helped accelerate our transformation:

  1. Strong executive buy-in
  2. A clear vision
  3. Agile-friendly company culture and values
  4. A passionate project team
  5. Resident agile experts

These 5 initial ingredients proved to be essential and enabled us to hit the ground running in Q1 2016. We started out by experimenting with non-technical pilot teams from all different offices, functions, and levels. After a couple months of experimentation, early qualitative results from pilot team members suggested that implementing agile principles was enhancing team communication and productivity. So we embarked on our next step, implementing agile practices across all non-technical teams at Return Path.

We are now 18 months into our transformation and the data shows us that the transformation is helping with our productivity:  we track a  metric that is comprised of many different measures of business performance that fall into 3 main themes–operating efficiency, planning effectiveness, and business success. So far we have already seen a 51% increase in the metric from Q4 2015 (before our Agile Everywhere initiative) to Q1 2017. We are emboldened by these promising results, but still have a lot of work to do to ensure that all teams at RP are taking full advantage of agile and reaping its benefits. Keep an eye out for Cathy Hawley’s posts for more information about our agile adventure, soon to be published the RP blog.

When the series is over, I’ll publish a summary with all the specific post links here as well.

May 122016

Book Short: Scrum ptious

Book Short:  Scrum ptious 

I just finished reading Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland and JJ Sutherland. This reading was in anticipation of an Agile Facilitation training my executive team and I are going through next week, as part of Return Path’s  Agile Everywhere initiative. But it’s a book I should’ve read along time ago, and a book that I enjoyed.

Sutherland gets credit for creating the agile framework and bringing the concept scrum to software development over 20 years ago. The book very clearly lays out not just the color behind the creation of the framework, and the central tenets of practice again, but also clear and simple illustrations of its value and benefits.  And any book that employs the Fibonacci series and includes Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote — my all-time favorite — is off to a good start by me.

I’ve always appreciated a lot of the underlying philosophy of Agile, such as regularly checking on projects, course correcting in response to feedback from customers or other stakeholders, and working hard to remove any impediments to progress in real time.

One of the author’s most poignant points is that “multitasking makes you stupid.”  I hadn’t focused in the past how agile allows you to clear away context shifts to focus on one task at a time, but that’s another great take away from the book.

Our Agile Everywhere initiative, which is designed to improve productivity across the organization, as well as increase accountability through transparency, is even more critical in my view after having read this book.

The thing that I am left struggling with, which is still very much a work in progress for us, and hopefully something that we will address more head on in our training next week, is the application of the agile framework to teams that are not involved in the production of a tangible work product, such as executive or other leadership teams.  That is something that our Agile Everywhere deployment team has developed a theory about, but it still hasn’t entirely sunk in for me.

I can’t wait for next week’s training session!  If you have any experience applying the agile framework to different types of teams in your company I’d love to hear more about it in the Comments.