Project Management Institute

Becoming agile

one organization's experience with adopting agile practices proves instructive -- and profitable

By Michal Raczka, PMI-ACP, PMP

IN 2011, OUR ORGANIZATION, e-commerce company Allegro Group, realized it needed a way to quickly react to changes in the market. Our waterfall process was not allowing us to do that, so we started making our way toward agility. The problems that cropped up and the lessons we learned on the way can help other organizations embarking on the same journey.

We started with a pilot project—our first Scrum team. We soon experienced the “two clocks issue,” in which the Scrum team was moving quickly, but the entire organization was not ready to make the change. Part of the problem was that we were unable to communicate well. Years of living in caves of specialization on different floors left us unaccustomed to communicating face-to-face with everyone—something that agile requires.

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What's more, although we said we were working in sprints, our sprints were just mini-waterfalls, and we struggled to think in terms of user value. Another problem was the availability of our first Scrum team members. Despite the agreement that our entire team would be dedicated full-time to the project, we faced a stream of requests for help with other work.

Nevertheless, in spite of the pilot project's challenges, management decided that agile should go company-wide. We found an experienced agile coach and started training all levels of the company. We began moving employees from silos to teams. Within two days everybody changed seats, floors—even buildings. Business-people now sat with IT people. This presented a huge administration challenge, but there were no longer problems with communication or availability of team members.

Meanwhile, I faced the challenge of implementing a new agile process in the project management office (PMO). My method was to suspend all rules and to give teams the freedom to find creative solutions. Every project manager was able to manage the project using his or her own style—the only requirement was to use the agile approach. After one year, we agreed on one common process, which we call the “agile project management process.” It is consistent with Scrum but modified for the strong usage of project management.

During the transition, my organization realized why it is so hard to achieve high agility. It is not about doing agile; it is about being agile. At the beginning we were focused on the mechanics of Scrum/agile. But this accounts for only 20 percent of the success—the other 80 percent pertains to culture and people. We had to adjust our thinking to be open to change, look for quick feedback and act on it, and adapt to new situations.

Our journey is not over. Still, we have seen remarkable success using agile: shorter time to market, close cooperation between business and IT, and more employee satisfaction. PM

img Michal Raczka, PMI-ACP, PMP, is IT director at Naspers Group/Allegro Group, Poznan, Poland.
This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK AUGUST 2015 WWW.PMI.ORG

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