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Mind-Set Shift for Dinosaurs

A Slow but Successful Transition to Agile

2 April 2014

Olivier LEDRU
Informatique CDC

I discovered Scrum in my workplace in 2010. I started with a three-day courses, and I had opportunities to put my fresh knowledge into practice at the same time for a new product.

It was one of our very first Agile projects. We probably made all the possible mistakes (well, most of them), but I was very enthusiastic and I pushed the Scrum framework for one of our next projects, in 2012.

I was then lucky to pass my CSM and CSPO with Michel Goldenberg as CST in 2012. This helped me a great deal in having some solid bases, to gain knowledge of how Scrum actually works, and to be a better ScrumMaster for my team.

But spreading the Agile mind-set within the company was a very slow process.

I'm an employee in a large, old French financial group that has a lot a of political issues that imply a lack of trust, poor transparency, and poor visibility, but size and power.

A major issue is the separation of the IT group (dev, ops, project managers) as a distinct entity in a distinct location, with the product managers and business analysts within the main entity of the organization.

We also have a large portfolio project-planning initiative for the next several years, and we have harsh arguments about our estimates. We have very poor automated-test practices and a top-down micromanagement asking for various styles of reporting.

Each of these issues creates a tough hurdle for a shift to Agile!

I applied a baby-step strategy, at first with my own dev team. In the sprint review, we easily caught the business people in the net of the Agile world and, when they asked for access to our product backlog, we told them, "Please, you are our PO, and the PBL is yours!"

Users were happy with the new product, the project was successful, and the team members got a bonus (though a small one; the financial crisis still exists).

After this small victory, I negotiated with my managers to become our internal Agile coach instead of being a ScrumMaster for a lone team.

My job started more as an Agile evangelist than as a pure Agile coach. I needed to help everyone be aware of the urgency of trying something other than our old Waterfall process. I needed to be able to make them want to learn Scrum. I needed to be able to teach them the basics in a few hours, or in a few minutes for the top managers.

I needed to be able to explain how to coach a team, how to facilitate Scrum ceremonies, how to do Agile testing, how to use continuous integration, how to do Agile estimation and planning, how to scale the process, how to order a backlog, how to deal with the requirements, how to estimate the value of PBI, how to make the backlog transparent. . . .

I needed to do all these activities with developers, testers, product managers, functional managers, internal customers. . . .

Without any coach helping me, I wondered how I could improve. How could I manage my mission with the necessary broad knowledge of Scrum?

I began to read a lot of books (maybe Mike Cohn can give me a coupon for his next one!). I browsed a lot of blogs (including those by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber). I read many articles from the Scrum Alliance site. I joined Scrum gatherings, including our ScrumBeer in Paris, Agile Dojo, Paris Scrum Days, Agile Playground. . . .

Then I wondered if I truly understood all this stuff. I wondered how I could get some feedback from recognized experts in the subject. At this time, I decided to take a shot at the CSP.

Preparing for the CSP was a really good way to train, to reinforce and broaden my knowledge of Scrum and Agility. Passing the CSP was a good way to have the feedback I was looking for. Now I feel I truly am a Scrum Professional. It gives me more self-confidence; it gives me more credit in the eyes of my coworkers. Of course I'm still reading books and articles, playing and facilitating serious "games" to continue on the journey.

The dinosaur is moving slowly but steadily. The top management held a large seminar in order to plan for "performance optimization." After my long and slow endeavor, Lean and Agile were noted as our main levers for this goal. Now top management wants us to have a more and more Agile team. As they still love long-term strategy, they are planning a 40 percent Agile team for 2018, and they are now ready to pay for a real effort (formation and coaching).

The future is uncertain, but I feel I have helped my coworkers inspect our current assets and adapt our structure for improvement using Scrum.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 5 (1 ratings)


Tim Baffa, CSM, 4/14/2014 10:06:47 AM
You have effective captured what many of us have experienced working for very large organizations with entrenched business practices. Like re-directing the movement of an iceberg, the process is very slow, but I have had some success with treating the agile transformation in an agile fashion.

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