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Anatomy of a Failed Agile Adoption


Stealth Agile Adoption

Winston realized that if there was any hope at all that it lay in the programmers—without responsible, disciplined programmers, all other aspects of Gorwell's software development strategy were for naught. So, after a bit of research Winston discovered that a wealth of agile techniques existed that the Victory process didn't include, and more importantly it appeared that these agile techniques worked significantly better in practice. Winston started sharing some of these agile concepts with his colleagues, whom he knew to be open minded and could be trusted not to report his subversive thoughts to senior management.

This group of people formed a development team and began to gain experience with test-driven development (TDD), continuous integration, architectural envisioning, agile requirements change management, iterations, and nonsolo development. They quickly discovered that these techniques did, in fact, work better than the traditional Victory techniques. Initial requirements and architectural envisioning gained the benefits of up-front modeling without the development and maintenance cost of comprehensive static documentation that resulted from Victory's up-front modeling activities. Nonsolo development, particularly with stakeholders who actively participated in requirements elicitation activities, also proved superior to Victory's documentation-heavy approach. TDD and continuous integration enabled developers to produce greater quality software in a shorter time period than did Victory's V-model approach to testing. They found that by becoming generalizing specialists, they were able to work together more effectively, and thereby produced greater quality work in a shorter period of time while requiring fewer work products compared to similarly sized teams comprised of specialists.

A remarkable accomplishment for Winston's team was that they avoided Gorwell's 2007 data management (DM) improvement effort dubbed "Operation Blackhole." The DM group wanted a more repeatable approach to what they did, and although they had been collecting comprehensive and accurate metadata using the Newspeak Data Repository toolset, they found that development teams weren't satisfied with the two-to-four month time required for simple database changes. Over a nine-month period, the Blackhole team managed to migrate the Newspeak metadata into the newly acquired TruthMinister 2007 repository and rewrite the 1500-page metadata management procedures and standards manuals. The end result was a consistent data-management process where all change requests were either denied outright or took exactly three months to respond to. Because Winston's team had gained experience with agile data-modeling approaches, database regression testing, and database refactoring they exceeded the quality requirements set by Operation Blackhole in a fraction of the time. They didn't need to request help from the DM group and thereby managed to stay off their radar scope.


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