Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Transition from Waterfall to Agile

Jatin Leuva asked what is required when an organization is transiting from waterfall to agile: this is an interesting, and very common, question.

First of all you should have good reasons for the transition: if waterfall works for you, you have no reasons to change it. Unluckily this is almost never the case.

So your process does not work, and you have to change it. I'd start with retrospectives: what went well, what you'd do differently, what did you learn, what still bothers you. This can give you a start.

Meanwhile, you have to work at higher levels, as agile methods require a shift of paradigm with respect to standard management techniques: managers have to trust people and must resist the impulse to tell them what to do, and this generates fear: fear of losing power, fear of being useless, fear of loss of visibility, and so on and so forth. Unless you dispel this fear, your organization will never get agile, as managers won't allow it.

That said, a very good way to start is to hire an agile expert to help your team (and your managers) get confident with the new process - I should say with the new attitude: your team must face a shift of paradigm too, as team members will not be told what to do anymore, but they shall commit to deliver useful software. They'll have to earn the trust that managers should have in them, as it won't come for free. It's not about skill, it's about committment.

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