Succeeding with your First Agile Pilot Project – Lessons from the Trenches

In a follow up to an earlier post regarding, Succeeding with your First Agile Pilot Project, posted on February 19, 2012 by rfeggins, Have coached several additional teams over the last few months and wanted to share some addition lessons that seem common to most teams starting out.

Pilot

While not difficult, agile adoption does take some time to sink in. Often agile teams need 2 or 3 iterations to work though practices related to being self-organizing. Activities such as creating a properly groomed backlog, estimating and report progress all seem to take some time for most teams. Here is a typical timeline that has worked well for me in the past 

Typical Agile Pilot Timeline

 Consider that the teams new to an iterative approach are usually overly-optimistic and the first iteration is usually the hardest. In addition any infrastructure, tool or integration issues must be resolved prior to onboarding the pilot team and starting Sprint 0 activities.

Tips for Selecting a Pilot Project

Pilot selection is usually very critical. Here are 5 key points to consider: 

  1. Duration – Recommended project length at least 8 – 10 wks
  2. Size – Pick a project that can be done by a small cross functional team (between 5 – 9 resources)
  3. Importance – Select a project critical to business (more visibility)
  4. Motivated Business sponsor – an engaged sponsor can help motivates team and/or help remove organizational barriers
  5. Leadership and Experience – How motivated are the potential pilot team members to adopt agile practices 

Key Activities during Sprint 0  

During Sprint 0 planning, take on modest amount of functionality otherwise the team may not be able to complete of the committed stories or a large amount of technical debt may be incurred. Also the perception of the agile projects success may be dimmed or there will be pressure meet the commitment but not at a sustainable pace.

  • Startup Activities
    • Implement core Scrum practices (e.g. daily stand-up meetings, single product backlog, defining “Done Done” for potentially shippable code)
    • Automate processes automated build process , automated testing
  • Capture stores, requirements written in a scenarios format and work with PO to prioritize them
  • Continue grooming the high priority stories and if possible have the team estimate all high priority stories before the initial Sprint Planning meeting
  • Work with embedded testers to build relationships to help pull testing forward based on prioritized stories and user story acceptance criteria.
  • Track test case results to story cards, manage defects from iteration to iteration

Adoption Team

Finally, here are some additional considerations that the team assisting with the  adoption should take into account:

  • Special care must be taken to ensure you have consensus from the project leaders regarding the pilot objectives and the success criteria.
  • Select the appropriate metrics that help guide the team’s adoption
  • Beware of too much oversight by management. Remember the old saying “A watched pot never boils”
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