Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How does Performance Stay in Agile

This has been my fear ever since adopting SCRUM and have mentioned it earlier. While going "gaga" about agile methodologies adoption and the magical benefits it has instilled in teams and deliveries, there is a fear if it could be sustained and adapted across projects. Part of it stems from my own fear of failure and the new frontiers that I was getting exposed to.

Am starting to see patterns emerge from SCRUM adoption on why it moves from a one time change wonder to a way of leading a disciplined and high performance professional lives.

Once you are in SCRUM, the simple techniques become simpler. The techniques that you practice because of SCRUM mandates become part of routine. Updating Impediment logs, Checking Kanban stickers, daily SCRUM calls, Sprint planning and retrospective meeting all become a habit that promotes

  1. Individuals and Interactions
  2. Client collaboration
  3. Responding to changes and helping along the way
  4. Focus on shippable product deliveries.
So my aha moment came from knowing that it is the methodology that drives the success, but realizing the goals of agile manifesto is the formula for ever lasting success.

Sounded so obvious. But it took me practical implementations and conscious analysis to understand the manifesto better.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I used SCRUM and achieved Peak Performance

Yea, it sounds a bragging statement. Yet it is true. It is factual. It is real. It is current and NOW. It is a first person experience account.  The facts and numbers speak for themselves.

I went the agile way for its novelty. I had to bring in some freshness to overcome then problems and also drive confidence in clients and teams alike. I used agile as just another "all encompassing" magic bullet. Knew it is the best I could to buy time. And it will allow me to set houses and expectations in order.

Not that I wasn't exposed to Agile and SCRUM earlier. My technical team under its SCRUM master was the pioneer to introduce and lighten me to the potential. It is a brand new team, fresh from college and a new technology that isn't mainstream too. Yet in 4 months, the learning and progress is amazing. Together holding the team and product focus along with progressing to a shippable state is a great achievement.

Yet, the situation in the product team isn't comparable with pressures and stress of a real client project. Soaring expectations, delays in project start, cost escalations, quality issues, all were hitting the epicenter of a downside. Neither do I have a hero nor a great leeway with budgets to get in right skills from market or rely on an entire management pool to set things right. It was bound to be a team commitment.

So along with SCRUM method for agile, I relied on Kanban and EVM (Earned Value Management) to help me stabilize the ship. And my colleague used to say that JIT promise of zero inventory and Agile promise of quicker yet better deliveries are true theories and lofty ideals. Measuring and you can get close but practically you fall short. Alas! it is not to be true.  Agile truly is a scalable process that is adaptable to any business surrounding. In e-Learning content projects, project planning is a futile exercise. Tight dependencies between skills, waiting periods for deliverables to start work, multiple review cycles towards final product and one global change in middle of project is enough derailment for the entire exercise.  Every time you put a schedule, you shift baselines practically every day.

With SCRUM, EVM,Kanban, and Support and Maturity of your team, I realized that each successive deliverable is transformative and each time you see a new shippable version, it is not just improvement, it is closer to  WoW!!.

Comparing my experience with Agile Manifesto, I believe the  following points are the critical factors in shaping a good success project. In e-Learning projects, achieving this is a true popping, hair-raising experience.
  1. People and Creativity over Processes and Hierarchies.
  2. Common sense and drive to end deliveries over Documentation and Intermediate review cycles.
  3. Transformation over Improvements. 
  4. Help others and Empowerment over Individual tasks and Shifting Dependencies.
  5. Interactions over Protocols.
  6. Bond of Like Minds and Shared Goals over Mandates to silence Disparate goals
  7. Levels the hierarchies with only one parameter: Performance!!
SCRUM has now given me another headache. The ache of peaking performance and soaring quality levels and negligible errors, that I now fear if it is a sustainable exercise. Client expectations is not just met, but the baseline is now perched higher and hoping it doesn't lead to more work.

Best of all, you do not have to take pains to identify the non-performers. They almost give up and you can find them lagging in the queue. It is  automatic and every peak performer gets along to take the project to greater heights.

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