The use of waterfall methodology has typically been the standard for project development and management.
Nonetheless, the spread of agile as a concept began at a time not too long ago as a result of rapidly growing productivity needs and faster product to market delivery requirements. With agile being a framework that reflects on change in mindset, implementing it as a practice requires well-crafted initiatives such as evangelization to derive required result(s).
Agile evangelization as defined by Guy Kawasaki is the act of leading people towards better ways of developing software. He went further to state that evangelism is firmly rooted in what is good for us individuals and organizations alike. But contrary to Guy’s reference to software development, agile evangelization can defined as the process of structuring and positioning of self-organized team activities to drive better process development, product delivery and people management through effective leadership and respect for people. In other words, certain components of teams that are self-organized and performing defined activities are required to drive specific results. Such teams require specialized roles of;
- An agile champions
- An extended team.
We have used the phrase agile evangelization quite a bit as well as pointed out its roles but what does it really mean? In my understanding, agile evangelization can be defined as a stakeholder buy in the initiative(s) that is aimed at familiarizing a non-agile team, group or individual with the core principles and practices of agile.
In my studies, I identified the following as being the core items needed for a successful agile evangelization;
- Leadership approval.
- Plan to communicate transparency.
- The purpose in Message.
- Train and Coach.
- Set designated meeting location.
- Use radiators.
- Create a group for champions.
Leadership approval: Leaders carry influence and as such their approvals hold water. Employees tend to take seriously what their leaders support or voice concerns on. Leadership guidance shields evangelization and an introduction of net new initiative(s) into an environment. So, for effective and meaningful evangelization, leadership engagement is critical to the success of such an initiative. Also if there is a leader, people follow as against work for such a person. Leaders sell and deliver on well thought out vision and can earn trust and confidence of people they lead.
Plan to communicate transparency: People respond better to change and transformation, when there is an understanding of the obvious. In other words, the change should be transparent and communicated in lieu of its commencement. As a leader, it is a sole responsibility to ensure all employees understand and are willing to align with an agile evangelization initiative put forward.
The purpose in a message: Common sense rules require purpose clarity in message delivery and so does agile evangelization. Part of communicating an agile evangelization is that, supposed adopters of the framework require understanding, as to how the overall change vision aligns with their existing process. People want to know their place in the change, what does the change means for their role and where obviously they fit in. Clarifying this would advance any agile evangelization initiatives that are brought forward for adoption.
Train and Coach: Train your people and expose them to the concept of agile. In light of the training, there should be reinforcement with coaching as a way of maintaining continuous knowledge transfer. In transitioning from waterfall to agile, evangelization is most crucial as people are usually not fully aware of the agile concept and its practices. As such, training and coaching to reinforce knowledge, plays key role in maturing people in that environment with the concept.
Designated meeting location: When kicking off an evangelization initiative, ensure there is a designated location for meetings. All participating groups should know of the designated meeting location. An accessible location not too far but centrally positioned, will drive participation during knowledge sessions.
Use radiators: Use of information radiators is the best way to keep knowledge flow constantly streaming to agile adopters. Information radiators server as visual aid and constantly reiterate learning for people who have no prior knowledge of the concept. Designated locations for agile evangelization meetings can always have radiators posted on the walls to visually remind people of the initiative goal.
Create a group for champions: The fifth principle of agile encourages building a team around motivated people. As such, an experienced evangelist would identify, select, train and coach a group of motivated individuals to be champions. Who is an agile champion? What does an agile champion do? After a close review, I came to the conclusion that while an evangelist provides and interprets the concept of agile core values and principles, champions reinforce the already defined concept and sell it to non-motivated members on their immediate teams. The point is that people relate to change better when it is from a trusted source.
In summary, agile evangelization is a best practice for introducing agile in non-agile environments. Delineation of roles further breaks down the responsibilities and thus, makes evangelization efforts far more reaching and entrenched in the process DNA of an organization.