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InfoQ Homepage News Presentation: Succeeding With Agile: A Guide To Transitioning

Presentation: Succeeding With Agile: A Guide To Transitioning


In this presentation filmed during Agile 2007, Mike Cohn talks about the transitioning process towards an agile organization, why the process is inherently difficult, and what it takes to see self-organization emerging in a previously tightly controlled environment.

Watch: Succeeding With Agile: A Guide To Transitioning (1h 24 min.)

Transitions to agile are difficult, according to Mike. They are not top-down neither bottom-up processes. It is not enough to have a strong leader who has the vision and leads the organization, because the organization might not react properly. It is like instaurating democracy by force. It is not working. Also, it is not enough to have a bold development team who wants to be agile. It is most likely to hit a road block somewhere on the management ladder.

 Mike enlists three vital ingredients that help self-organizing to emerge:

  • Container - A boundary within which self-organization occurs. Examples: company, project, team, city, role, nationality.
  • Differences -  There must be differences among the agents acting in our system. Examples:  technical knowledge, domain knowledge, education, experience, power, gender.
  • Transforming Exchanges - Agents in the system interact and exchange resources. Examples: information, money, energy (vision).

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Community comments

  • hao ka

    by wang metis,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    hao ka


    by Kripanidhi S.M.,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    This is an excellent diagnosis of the symptoms and problems encountered in an Enterprise Agile Adoption scenario, with a practical analysis of its prognosis, possible treatment plans and ideas for monitoring and maintaining the continuous improvements in it.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and ideas.


  • So true, so true...

    by Richard Lissimore,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Mike's point about you shouldn't try to get a team to be self-organising by command and control is one of those insightful moments that everyone should pause and think about.

    In the past during interviews, discussions etc. I've mentioned taking a light touch approach as discussed in Sanjiv Augustine's "Managing Agile Projects" book and so many people, including some who have been seasoned agile proponents, have mentally taken the opposite angle of "the team won't become self-organising unless I tell them how to be", and dismissed the light touch approach.

    IMHO to get a team to move towards becoming self-organising needs continous encouragement, respect, shared knowledge between all team members, and most of all, knowing when (as a manager, coach, or mentor) your pre-conceived mental image of them being self-organising day to day should be retired as they've reached their own disciplined state of being self-organising and have moved from the norming to performing stage of team development.

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