A software program stuck after 5 years running in Agile

  • 90-100 actors, 8 teams, 5-year doing Agile (Scrum)
  • metrics were sinking: velocity, business satisfaction
  • the business was about to drop support and funding
  • friction among the teams (“your team doesn’t do Agile right”), and among the roles (support vs dev, PO vs devs, SM vs the world), and among the 3 hierarchical lines intertwined in the program
  • the legacy systems to integrate with were a giant spaghetti architecture

A simple goal: bring project’s return on investment positive again

  1. Find a breakthrough strategy to turn the situation around
  2. Work better together as a team of team

Approach: beyond Agile coaching, Strategic coaching

  1. Starting at the top: Change Leadership coaching with the 3 program directors and head of division
    • inspired by Kotter’s 8 steps model of change (ref to Accelerate and Leading Change)
  2. Asap, assembled managers and team leaders as a leadership circle to figure out a breakthrough strategy
    • turned them into a high performing team steering the transformation through bi-weekly coaching sessions
    • Strategic Planning workshops to figure how to untie the situation and turn the ship around through a breakthrough vision and strategy
    • Helped them run and evolve their leadership circle and the strategy while attracting all teams onboard
    • Equiped them with new mindset & tools such as Systemic Thinking, Agile Management, Retrospective facilitation, etc. to help them evolve further on
  3. After setting up (1) and (2) for 2 month, light touch coaching with Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and teams to step up their game
    • reviewed rituals and practices upon team demand (retrospective, planning, story mapping, etc.)
    • dispelled some bad practices and Agile fallacies that had creeped up within the teams (scope commitment instead of goal focus commitment, poor retrospective tryout, etc)
    • introduced sharper Agile tools and practices (facilitation skills, roles and responsibilities workshop, advanced retrospective techniques, etc.)

Outcome: a new dynamic and a situation back to green in 6 month

  • After 6 month, the program was considered ROI positive at portfolio level
  • All indicators, if not green, were improving fast, and the teams morale was high
  • After a year, the program gained a new traction from the business branches with a broader scope
  • On the field
    • The leadership circle remains the spine of the project governance and has kept evolving and improving, working in an open fashion with the teams
      • regular teammates showed up regularly on the leadership circle sessions whenever they had insight to share or their contribution was needed
    • After several refinement, the teams restructured themselves as Feature Teams, but the organisation was explicitly meant to evolve continuously
    • the 3 hierarchy lines have been clarified and streamlined and were not going in the way of decision making
    • the product owners relationship with their teams, once distant, had been reforged, most of them acting as product leaders within the teams. Several Scrum Masters developed into Agile coaches over the years
  • In total, this took 45 days of coaching through 6 month, and a 2 day yearly follow up the next 2 years