Adopting Agile – Challenges with the bottom-up approach

Even though someone has probably written about this before, this is something I have experienced to a certain degree and feel I would like to share  with other Agile evangelists.

I’ve read a lot about Agile being adopted with the bottom-up approach. Developers wants to do their jobs better, faster and deliver more business value more frequently. They start exploring Agile approaches such as continuous integration or test-driven development. Sooner or later a couple of evangelists have convinced their team-leader or project manager to try out agile on their next project. They find themselves creating a sprint backlog, having daily stand-ups and maybe even retrospectives.

But hey – what about the demonstration meetings and the product owner? If the business people that are supposed to prioritize the product backlog are not familiar with agile, or are organized in a way that makes it hard for them to agree on a prioritization of the user stories in the product backlog, the project managers or the architects have to take on the customer role. This is a compromise that may very well work out okay. But it is hard to know if it the developer team really is delivering the optimal pieces of business value at the end of each iteration. Meanwhile the organization looses some of the benefits of their teams doing agile – for instance the possibility to turn around or change course quickly.

My point is  that using the bottom-up approach for adopting agile, will force you to make compromises that will affect the benefits of agile. Sooner or later the adoption may spread further up the organization – or if you’re really lucky someone might start a top-down approach too and meet you half-way (not that I know how that would work out =)

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2 Responses to “Adopting Agile – Challenges with the bottom-up approach”

  1. Fredrik Kalseth Says:

    Adopting the project managment aspects of agile without also adopting the XP engineering principles will be flawed, wheter the adoption happens top-down or bottom-up. I think that if the business decides to do agile (top-down), then this is probably more likely to happen than if the devs drive the adoption.

  2. Richard Durnall Says:

    I favour a pincer movement. Strategic support from the top and an uprising from the working ranks. It’s the only way to deal with the dreaded…. ‘middle manager’ : )

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