Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Dedicated Agile Champion job

If an agile initiative is to succeed, one of the best patterns (cf. Fearless Change by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising) is for someone to be named the Dedicated Champion (their title for the position).

(Note to senior managers: If you really want the change to happen, wait until someone volunteers to be Dedicated Champion. And then help them structure it into a real job, not a baloney job. Which is tough, since your firm has almost surely never had a position like this.)

First, why is such a role needed? Well, it would be nice if positive change happened with no effort. Auto-magically. But experience shows that it does not.

Let us say simply: While an Dedicated Champion is expensive, it is minor compared to the benefits of a positive change in the direction of lean-agile-scrum. In our experience. (I won't speak to whether cowboy Agile is worth the benefits, but real and hard Agile is.)

What is the role at the highest level?
  1. To lead and inspire the change
  2. To help define what the change is, and how we will get there
  3. To convince and bring on board others to support the change
  4. To help show that the change is happening and giving good results
  5. To avoid cowboy Agile and backsliding to Waterfall (or the former approach)
  6. To lead modifications to the change
  7. To remove impediments to the change (along with others)
  8. To lead the people to the next level, if it starts to plateau
This all requires huge amounts of talking to people. Not to tell them what to do, but to inspire them with a vision of where they could be. It is more a role of pulling than of pushing.

Two dangers to speak of first.

One danger is that one is always talking, and no tangible results are obtained. To counter-act this (and for other reasons), we recommend that the Dedicated Champion stay very close to the real Scrum teams (assuming you are doing Scrum). He/she should be, and be seen as, a direct contributor to the success of the Pilot team(s). And later teams.

The second danger is to try to do everything. In fact, 'everything' needs to be fixed. The Dedicated Champion should do two key things:
  1. Not do things that others (internal or external) can do as well (or almost as well). Note: This implies that the Dedicated Champion has special ability in certain domains, and should focus on those areas (more).
  2. Prioritize!!!! Meaning simply: Do the most important thing first. One at a time. Go to the next one once you have gotten good results from working on the prior thing.
Our view is that there is so much for the Dedicated Champion to do, that it is beyond the ability of one person to do it all quickly enough. Unless, perhaps the company size is 10 people, and 7 of them are pigs in a Scrum team. In that case, perhaps the job is reasonable.


Bob Lieberman said...

Good try. I think you've missed commenting on the role for larger shops. When there are ten or twenty teams, and delivery involves more parts of the organization than the scrum teams, the champion can't be close to a scrum team and also wrangle senior managers from other departments effectively. Can you say some more about that?

Joe Little said...

Hi Bob,
Fair comment. One is restricted in a blog post. One cannot take time to explain one's scope and what one chose to address (and why) and what one chose to not address (and why).

Let me see if I can add more.