Preparing the pilot team

December 19, 2013
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In addition to providing mentoring to the pilot team during the project, you also need to prepare the team in other ways. You need to train the pilot team on agile practices and principles, and provide a method for feedback during the pilot.

Ensure everyone is trained on agile

The untrained pilot-team members go through a process similar to that followed by the core team. They need an overview of why the company is pursuing agile, training on the agile principles, and an understanding of the process they’re to use on the pilot. If possible, have your agile coach provide the pilot team’s training, with core-team members contributing to the discussions. This process training takes one or two days and is slightly different for the pilot team. In addition to the fundamental principles and practices of agile, they also need training on how the core team has represented those principles in the custom methodology. For example, they need to see how the core team’s new process supports the agile principle of customers and developers working together daily. If core-team members are attending the fundamentals training with the pilot team, they can show the pilot team how the principles are reflected in the custom methodology. You should expect the untrained team members to have some cynicism and negativity related to using the new process. Their concerns usually relate to the following:

■ A misunderstanding of agile principles.

■ A belief that the current process works fine —Project team members may be unaware of the issues that the new methodology addresses.

■ Lack of detail in the agile process —In the past, you may have prescribed every step in the development process. Now, the team is asked to participate in selecting the processes that add the most value, and that can be a shock. If your environment has been controlling in the past, the last item will take time to resolve. Agile doesn’t assign employee A to do step B; it tells the employee to deliver value to the customer as quickly as possible and provides tools and processes to reach that goal. The team works together to determine logical steps and assignments during the project. No matter what the feedback is, listen to the pilot team with an open mind. Where applicable, show them how the new design takes their concerns into account. You may receive enough feedback from pilot-team members to tempt you to make another update to the methodology. But unless the feedback identifies a showstopper, we suggest holding off on any changes—the pilot will provide plenty of feedback, and you can incorporate the pilot-team feedback when the pilot project is complete.

Providing a mechanism for feedback

When the pilot project kicks off, you need to provide a way to gather feedback from the pilot team. The best way to do this is to invite them to the weekly core-team meetings and give them the floor. The core team can listen, see how the methodology is working, and provide guidance to the pilot team. You should expect some apprehension from the pilot team during the first few meetings. The pilot team knows they’re providing feedback to the group that customized the methodology. Do your best to create an environment where egos are checked at the door and the pilot team feels comfortable sharing their feelings.

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