Don't Push Agile, Pull It

J.D. Meier

Introducing Agile methods to a team in an organization deeply rooted in waterfall ways is tough, especially when the culture is risk-averse and well-established. But you can be a catalyst for change and help your team learn to be more agile by following three simple practices.

I learned Agile methods early on from some of the industry’s best, including Ward Cunningham (father of the Wiki), James Newkirk (a pioneer in test-driven development), and Corey Ladas (a leader in the lean software engineering space.) For more than 10 years, I was part of an organization that embraced Agile values, was customer-connected, and focused on continuous learning.

And then I changed jobs. More importantly, I changed organizations.

The culture shock was intense as I went from the world I knew of embracing change, to a culture that spoke of learning and growth, but was weighted down in waterfall ways and cemented in processes averse to change. Instead of co-creating value with the customer and validating along the way, I found myself among a sea of BUFD (“Big Up-Front Design”), and the customer at the tail-end of the process.

I had my work cut out for me. I could be a fish out of water, or I could teach others to swim. I chose the latter. Otherwise, it was not just me at stake, the organization would sink in today’s highly competitive world.

But I was …

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Very funny, Scotty. Now beam down my clothes.