Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Starting Out

I left Conchango and started in my new role at the beginning of March this year. I'd been working as Scrum Master ( with the likes of Howard van Rooijen ( and Ian Shimmings (, and fundamentally wanted to take agile practices to an organisational level.

Moving a development team of 25 from traditional methods to agile practices is an exercise in change management. But even the word change management implies a clear direction, manipulation or cohersion and "management" of the process.

I knew straight away that in order to encourage adoption of agile practices I would need to capture hearts and minds rather than direct a change programme. My previous blogs discuss transformational leadership and emotional intelligence, and I recognised that this is how I want to lead development. Even writing (I want to lead development) seems to go against the team ethic of scrum, but even within a scrum environment leaders emerge... the difference here is that it's my job!

The first step therefore was to build the Change Programme Backlog i.e. a list of all the issues that exist within the organisation.
Over a three week period I conducted 25 two-hour one-to-one meetings with all team members.

I kept the meetings fairly open but gathered information, and tried to shape conversations around the following topics:
Personal Skills & Competencies
Personal Strengths & Weaknesses
Personal Issues
Personal Career Aspirations

Department Strengths & Weaknesses
Department Issues
Suggested Solutions
Department Strategy

This gave us the opportunity to discuss the current problems within the team, share ideas about direction and strategy, and discuss personal ambitions and goals.

I ensured the meetings were structured the same and recorded the key points of each meeting, ensuring everyone recognised that all data would be de-sensitised before use.

This exercise proved extremely valuable, and extremely tiring. The intensity of one-to-one meetings, concentration levels, and the demoralising effect of seeing the mess the team was in (having just joined!) did take the wind out of my sails.

However, by the end of the meetings I had an extremely valuable "database" of issues, problems, ideas, and strategies for the team.

Next step... The team had been without a development manager for some time and had not had an off-site meeting in years (literally). I organised an off-site day with the objective of creating a change programme to address the issues.

I went through the "database" analysing all the comments and did a cluster analysis to identify the key issues.

An important part of any change programme is to ensure it is aligned to the overal aims, objectives and processes of the corporate. The company uses a Balanced Scorecard Approach to strategy and long-term planning.

I therefore made use of the BCS elements of Financial, People, Process and Client to organise the key issues into clusters. Each of these issues were then written on index cards and grouped into their themes.

The team day then became an exercise in discussing these issues openly in break-out groups, then returning as a team to complete the prioritisation and creation of the change programme.

This may sound like a simple task, it is, but it is also painful. I felt like we'd just opened Pandora's box.

The result of the exercise in both running the personal meetings then the team day was that everyone had a clear opportunity to contribute to the strategy and change programme.

We managed to gain a consensus on direction and started moving forward.

I also created a high level simple view of the change programme that enables everyone to understand quickly and clearly both our direction and progress.


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Keep blogging away :-)

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