Why 47% of Agile Transformations Fail by Jeff Sutherland

Today SPIN Chennai had organized an engaging and useful session over zoom video call by the creator of Scrum development process and the famous author Mr Jeff Sutherland. The topic was a relevant one for the current times – Why 47% of Agile Transformations fail?. Watch the full presentation that’s available in YouTube for everyone, thanks, Mr Jeff Sutherland.

This post is from the notes I took:

  • Apple is said to have used in full, the ideas from my book – The Art of Doing Twice the work in half the time.
  •  Today, Agility is disrupting not only the software industry but across all domains.
  • An example of an Agile transformation that works can be seen at Microsoft, where their Development tools with over 3000 people adopted Scrum many years ago. 
  • XP and Scrum are like mother and father
  • When you are implementing Scrum, your process efficiency has to double.
  • One of the big questions facing large Software Companies is on how to scale scrum without losing productivity.
  • Hardware companies have asked me how to improve productivity with software development just like we can do with chips manufacturing. The fundamental problem is scaling as told in Brooks Law in the seminal work “The Mythical Man-Month” by Fredrick Brooks. A team in Russia for the first time managed to break the Brooks law by having small teams build on the model of object-oriented principles like what we see in chip design or social media. Scaling without losing productivity per team is called Linear Scalability.
  • One of the patterns is to use Scrum of Scrums. We need a process like what happens with Mitosis in cells, where teams have to be split as they cross beyond seven people. Give the right and the responsibility to collaborate on delivering common goals identified by the product owner to the development teams themselves. Permit the teams to figure out the best way to coordinate their efforts.
  • You can create a product owner team – to do more than a single person can handle well.
  • An agile team has to be led by a scrum agile team. If waterfall management runs an agile team, it will 100% FAIL.
  • We also need senior management, a leadership team that is also built like a scrum team. Their backlog is the Operational efficiency of the organization. The backlog is put in a large board behind, the senior teams meet in a large room and anyone walking-in can see the backlog and what’s happening and the progress. Refer John Kotter‘s book “Accelerate“.
  • The time taken to make a decision is the primary driver of project failure and budget overrun – a Minimum viable bureaucracy drives project successes. A secret to the future survival of your company is Minimum viable bureaucracy.
  • If a team is new to scrum, then start with a single team (maybe the management team) and then take it other teams (once when 6 to 9 teams), don’t start with the entire organization.
  • I worked with a team in SAP and told them about an example. The company I was helping had 600 people, the SAP consultants added 600 more people and after 10 years, a $1 Billion spent, they were another 10 years and $1 Billion behind in completing the implementation. After implementing Scrum, they did complete in a year by going by 11 times faster. The model was to start with basic SAP implementation, then keep adding function points one by one and not go for the entire feature in one go.
  • Work from Home, how does it affect SCRUM? Research shows that co-location is more effective, but in COVID situation we have to adapt. You have to be very disciplined when you are distributed. Check out the paper called “Distributed Scrum” in IEEE and available in the Scrum Website.
    In a Dutch company with an Indian subsidiary, they brought everyone to Amsterdam and after training, send them back. They faced problems and on examination realized the senior Indian developer was assigning work to the junior developers and breaking the agile model. Now when you train him as a Scrum Master and then implement correctly Scrum to assign work automatically things resolved. 
  • Every team has to think about how to automatically & systematically move to automated processes? Just like Amazon has been able to automate everything with AWS, that’s where the bulk of their profits come from now.
  • How will an AI Scrum work? It will be very disruptive. IBM was trying to build a scrum chip – they said if Scrum can work with people, it can work with chips.

Disclaimer: The notes are not complete and they are only indicative of what I managed to write down.

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