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Agile Ecosystem for Nonsoftware Development Functions

Agile for less explored areas

6 April 2016

Shalu Tyagi
@ SpiceJet Ltd.

At one of the companies I worked for, we had been delivering value to our clients for quite a long time. Teams were mature enough that they were demonstrating Agile principles and practices on autopilot. Inspired by this team behavior, whereby they continuously followed Agile through autonomy, mastery, and purpose, top management developed the idea to implement Agile in nonsoftware development areas, including support functions such as HR, administration, and training, to reap the benefits we had realized in software development projects.

Research, ideas, and plan

We did some research, brainstormed with existing Agile teams, gathered ideas, and documented the approaches to implement Agile for nondevelopment projects. We set up a meeting with top management to present the ideas. Keeping the mission and vision in mind, we further brainstormed the approaches. After several meetings, a hybrid model was finalized, and we got the go-ahead to implement it.

The New Model

The hybrid model was a combination of best practices from Kanban, Scrum, and the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) House of Lean.

Kanban: We took the visual board from the Kanban model to help visualize the flow of everyday tasks.

Scrum: Because the work needs someone to remove the impediments, we introduced the role of a ScrumMaster to facilitate the interdepartmental coordination. The ceremony of daily stand-up was also introduced while maintaining the visual board, with the intent to meet every day and promote transparency.

Values: Values such as focus, openness, respect, commitment, and courage were discussed with the teams so that they could focus on being Agile rather than only on doing Agile.

The SAFe House of Lean: To uphold Scrum values, the leadership team was trained on the four key pillars of House of Lean: people, flow, innovation, and relentless improvement.


We followed these steps in our approach:
  1. Chartered preparation with consensus
  2. Formed the Agile task force to execute the model
  3. Promoted buy-in from the leadership team
  4. Provided orientation to the leadership team first, then to the support group teams
  5. Aligned a task force member to each support group to facilitate the process throughout the organization

Difference made by this approach

This model was well embraced, after some initial hiccups. After four months of continuous implementation, we got a thumbs-up from the teams. We had different teams that were using this model to talk about their success stories. Some claimed to have gained the following benefits:

Better communication: The teams believed that Agile provided them an excellent team-based approach to enhance communication and collaboration. Earlier teams had been working in silos, and team members didn't know what the others were working on. With the implementation of Agile, the teams were on track together.

Effective planning and execution: Teams said that the strength of Agile is its simplicity. The visual board-based approach made tracking of projects easy, whereas earlier it was quite difficult to track status, and lack of ownership, along with roadblocks, hindered progress. With the new method, efficient planning and execution was observed. Teams developed a better culture of keeping informed and being aware of what was going on within and outside each team.

With the concept of daily-stand ups, the ScrumMaster was aware of the status and the roadblocks, and he or she was responsible for clearing those roadblocks, which made completion of projects easier.

Risk reporting: Issues reporting was changed to risk reporting. Teams used proactive risk reporting and mitigation instead of waiting for risks to escalate into problems.

Value measures were now being promoted instead of transactional measures.

Success factor

The success factor behind this approach was that top management was a great support throughout and acted as a catalyst so that the model was sustainable.

People throughout the organization got to know about the bigger picture; it was one of the objectives of this program. A paradigm shift was achieved in a span of six months. About 200 people were inducted into this philosophy. The gradual shift from doing Agile to being Agile could be seen in people who were sensitized during the orientation and lived the Scrum values.

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.

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