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The Agile Social Contract

Setting the Agile Rollout in Motion

Realistically assessing the current capabilities for leading teams and programs is the first step in creating a roadmap of priorities for your organziation. For instance, without a clear rollout plan, groups of distributed teams can quickly start running in all directions. That equates to waste of thrashing. An effective Agile rollout map such as our five-step model provides critical focus and scope control for the entire adoption process; one step at time!

What is your role in all of this? You have created and communicated your Agile Social Contract. You are ready to follow the Flow Pull Innovate model for Agile maturing and scaling. Now what?

First, hold an Agile Rollout Planning meeting where you drive for the highest level of commitment to move to the next transition step within an agreed upon timebox. This meeting aligns with other standard Agile meetings, such as an Iteration Planning meeting, in that it drives and is driven by:

  • Priorities
  • Estimates
  • Commitments
  • Acceptance
  • Adaptation

In this meeting, you first declare your vision for the organization, re-stating your Agile Social Contract for the entire organization. You and your stakeholders as the Steering Committee determine what your specific goals are for the Agile rollout given the vision. You gain consensus around these Agile adoption goals. You also gain commitment to use the Flow Pull Innovate model for your rollout. In addition, you define your roles in the overall rollout and you select the initial teams, the pilot teams, that you will support in the rollout. Finally, in this kick-off of the Agile rollout, you and your stakeholders commit to what you will complete in the Organizational Implementation backlog before the next meeting.

The Organizational Implementation Backlog

The Organizational Implementation Backlog is a clear indication of your commitment to the Agile rollout. This backlog prioritizes the work that you and the stakeholders vouch to do in order to support the teams as stated in your Agile Social Contract. The items, also referred to as stories, have a rough costing and a sense of benefit/value that helps guide its ranking and the effort of estimate to drive the item to acceptance/completion. This means that each item must also have clearly articulated success criteria. In the Agile Rollout meeting, or prior to it, the backlog items need to be groomed. That means that they have been roughly prototyped, roughly costed and presented with clear acceptance criteria.

Going Forward

In each subsequent meeting with the Steering committee (or Rollout Team), you will follow the same set of similar steps as the initial meeting:

  1. Initial presentation including a clear assessment of the current state, a review of the vision and roadmap as well as a review of the progress made.
  2. Given the theme of getting to the next step, you present your prioritized list of Organizational Implementation backlog items.
  3. The team debates the design, shape, estimates, feasibility and effectiveness of these ranked backlog items.
  4. The team then selects the items to work on in this cycle's timebox and reviews the criteria they will use to inspect each item's progress or acceptance.
  5. The team commits to get these items done in the cycle.
  6. A communication plan is developed to share the plans with the rest of the organization.

A Steering Committee that is prepared for this meeting and that has engaged a meeting facilitator can complete this work in two to four hours. In addition to the work stated above, you may need to revisit your Agile Social Contract. It might take a few cycles before you have enough experiences and data to complete your final draft the Agile Social Contract. Once you have it however, it becomes a simple step of commitment along the Agile transition path.

Can you see the simplicity of Agile Adoption when you apply appropriate commitment and structure? A truly effective Agile Social Contract that creates true trust and commitment requires clarity and discipline. With the transparency of a clearly communicated Agile Social Contract, you will establish a strong leadership mechanism that aligns all the stakeholders and teams within your Agile adoption. Of course Enterprise-scale agile adoptions take place in a larger context of the business and market. As Israel Gat stated in his personal Agile Social Contract, we cannot guarantee lifetime employment in this globally competitive world. But, by making a clear commitment to win-win agreements, we can change the conversation into a motivating one versus a de-motivating one. Don't try to scale Agile without a real and personal commitment or without a clear rollout structure. It does not work any better than an Agile team that does not have the discipline to commit.

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