Agile Transformation in Practice: Part VII
It is imperative to remember that Agile transformation is not something that is done purely for its own sake but in order to achieve tangible benefits.
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During enterprise Agile transformation, changes must be coached to carefully targeted organizational areas and with reference to good patterns and practices. It's important to have clear results in mind. Agile transformation is not something that is done purely for its own sake but in order to achieve tangible benefits.
This means that the success of the transformation initiative should be measured objectively. What we specifically care about, at all times, is the delivery of value. To this end, each change on the Transformation Backlog must be qualified in terms that include the intent and motivation for using it, along with the consequences that can be expected from its correct implementation. The hypothesis for implementing a change and for leveraging the relevant good patterns and practices can thereby be tested. Each change item in the Transformation Backlog is given acceptance criteria for verifying its successful adoption by a targeted party. The Transformation Rollout Team must consider two things: one, are these criteria being met and two, are the expected benefits to the organization also being realized?
Verification addresses the first of these.
For example, the pattern Limited WIP is often applied in response to unconstrained demand on a team. A suitable acceptance criterion, for coaching a change that involves this pattern to a certain team, might be a WIP limit of three. This should, therefore, be included in the Acceptance Criteria of the change item once it is placed on the Transformation Backlog.
The ability of the targeted Delivery Team to meet the Acceptance Criteria will be evaluated at least once every Transformation Heartbeat. Once a criterion has been demonstrably achieved to the satisfaction of the Transformation Rollout Team, then the criterion is deemed to have been met and the change item can be retired.
In the previous example, if the Rollout Team observes that a WIP limit of three is being consistently observed, they would be in a position to retire the change. Have the expected benefits to the organization materialized, though? Regardless of whether or not the expected Acceptance Criteria have been satisfied, we must gauge the utility of implementing it. The Rollout Team must, therefore, look for actionable metrics which can inform them if the Acceptance Criteria were indeed appropriate or if more work remains to be done by introducing further changes to the backlog.
Each change in the Transformation Backlog must have acceptance criteria for gauging its successful application. The Rollout Team will verify whether or not these criteria are being met, and must do so at least once every Transformation Heartbeat.
Regardless of whether or not the expected Acceptance Criteria have been satisfied, however, we must understand the usefulness of implementing it. Are the expected benefits to the organization being achieved? The Transformation Rollout Team must, therefore, look for actionable metrics which can inform them if the Acceptance Criteria were indeed appropriate, or if other work must be done if the desired benefits are to be achieved.
Suppose, for example, that a change involves the Limited WIP pattern. This pattern details the following consequences that can be expected from its implementation:
Value is delivered earlier.
There will be less stock-on-hand that will be subject to depreciation.
Throughput and forecasting will improve.
For projects, the risk of failing to meet a Sprint Goal will be reduced as less work is likely to remain in progress by the end of the iteration.
Any or all of these consequences might be used to define “actionable metrics” for gauging the successful application of a corresponding change in which WIP is limited. For example, if the Acceptance Criteria stipulated that WIP must be limited to three items and this was indeed verified, the change may then be retired. However, it does not necessarily follow that any of the above benefits were in fact realized. Measurements will need to be taken in order to find out. We need empirical evidence as to whether or not the value was delivered earlier, or depreciation was reduced, or throughput rose, or progress towards a goal was better controlled. These metrics will inform us of how successful the change was and to take further action accordingly.
Actionable metrics should be evaluated for every change that is currently in progress. This must occur at least once every Transformation Heartbeat. These metrics can then be used to revise the plan for applying the change and/or to make revisions to the Transformation Backlog.
Once its Acceptance Criteria are met, the change ought to be retired, irrespective of whether or not the hypothesized benefits are attained. The next change item will then be drawn from the backlog by the Transformation Rollout Team and actioned.
Note that if the expected benefits have not been realized for a specific change after retirement, then a new item is typically needed. It may appeal to different patterns or implement them in a different way with a different action plan and the Acceptance Criteria may need to be revised. The change will then be added to the Transformation Backlog and prioritized accordingly. This feedback loop, in which value and quality are subject to continuous improvement, is referred to as “Validated Learning.”
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