Dealing with “Agile partners”
As you may know if you follow me, I’ve started my own journey as an independent professional.
My focus is helping organisations in their journey towards providing their business better agility. And that, by definition, involves adapting the way their Product / People / Processes are shaped (more on this view in my other post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-do-you-mean-agile-coach-carlos-piqueres)
In a way, I’ve been doing that for quite a long time in many different ways, shapes, forms and brands. Leading teams, delivering programs, …whatever I’ve done so far has always been serviced from an agile perspective as it has provided me with the best toolset to deliver the best value.
As you can imagine, after so many years working for others, this type of decision is not trivial (damned … it’s scary!).
There are so many companies out there providing similar types of services, in many different ways.
So, what would make me different?
I’m not going to answer that question right here, right now, but I’ll give what my own comparison rules have been so far.
How could you distinguish a “good partner” when it comes to “agility”?
There are many companies out there providing services of many different types, all of them labelled with “agile” word on it.
Some of them are more focused on technologies. Announcing DevOps, automation…
Some of them are more focused on product design. UX, Design Thinking… all those things.
Some of them bodyshopping specific profiles. Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches (I still have issues with that broad and ambiguous term… )
Some of them provide training.
Some of them provide tools.
So, if you are looking for help, if you are looking for a partner…how would you choose among them?
The proof is in the pudding
It may be simpler than it looks.
Just ask them for their backlog.
Ask them for their processes.
Ask them for their definition of Value.
Ask them for their people. How they are structured (and why…)
Ask them kindly to describe what their feedback loops are, how long they are, and how they use them to adapt. And where you, as a client, fit.
So, ask them to show how much they truly understand what it takes to develop that capability they sell.
I’ve found more frequently than I would like most “agile providers”:
- Cannot show their backlog, what strategies they follow to manage it, how transparent it is, how they slice their “product”… so no “managed backlog”, no discipline or practices related to it.
- Cannot describe their feedback loops, are not “managed”, and their outputs and outcomes are not clearly articulated (and their clients are not involved)
- Their structures follow the traditional functional models they consult their clients to move away from. And the roles they have, follow the same pattern.
So in a nutshell, when an “agile provider” comes… ask them to show their pudding.
And by the way… a similar reflection can be applied to other disciplines.
I’ve seen companies selling big data services with no internal usage of the benefits that could bring.
I’ve seen companies selling BI services, without the raw ability to manage their own data, set aside providing intelligence out of it.
I’ve seen companies selling AI services, when they don’t apply any of that to the data they’ve got, the data they need.
I’ve seen companies selling Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches where internally there’s no feedback loop, and clients are not involved in their “value stream” (more than likely, that concept is not defined for them).
I’ve seen companies selling “Agile Transformations” with a multi-year plan, multi-million strategy (and hell… a part of me envy those!) as if you can forecast where the context of the company will be after the first 6 months of that so-called transformation…
So, lead by example.
Sell by example.