What does it take to succeed with agile?

sipgate, my employer, has come a long way since introducing Scrum in 2010. Overall I’d consider our journey a successful transformation. Today, we can ship much faster with better code quality and information is readily available to every employee – to name a few advantages.

Of course there are many factors that contribute to a successful agile transformation (yep, you got me, the title is clickbait), but if I had to pick one single most important factor and draw a diagram to represent it, it would be this:

roomsize

What do you think this might depict? Take a few seconds to come up with a guess, before you scroll down.

 

 

 

 

Have you thought of something?

 

 

 

 

Really? Pinkie promise?

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, here we go:

I think that management support is the most important predictor of a successful agile transformation. Real support, not lip service. And that’s what the diagram shows, real support:

People in previously existing groups (Web, Java, UX & design, telephony, …) had assembled themselves into 3 cross-functional teams. So far, so good, but there was one problem: These teams were bigger than the old ones and during “ye big team move” we would only free up 2 rooms big enough to host such a team. No other big rooms left either.

We’re gonna need a bigger room

The only room that was big enough and wasn’t filled with a corresponding number of people was the bosses’ office. Our two CEOs/founders shared this room. At this specific time, the more technical CEO – was abroad.

It dawned on all of us that the CEO in residence would have to move into a much, much smaller room if we wanted to go through with the whole cross-functional, all-in-one-room team approach. Unfailingly, he moved into the room represented by rectangle #2 so that the 8 members of Team Princess could set up camp in his beautiful, spacious office aka rectangle #1.

Without a single complaint he moved again when the Technical CEO returned. The TCEO got rectangle #2 and he got room #3. To emphasize how small and undesirable #3 was: It has no real window. Today we store beverage crates in that room.

In the meantime (it’s Dec 2014 when I write this), we quadrupled office size and the CEO moved once again into a big office, together with two others. Jointly they set company strategy.

So, there it is. When it counted our CEO demonstrated his commitment. He was willing to sacrifice comfort and the status attached to a big office to help implement agile the best way we knew.

Would yours? Would you?

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