Thursday, January 26, 2012

Operational excellence through Agilpractices - By Chandan Lal Patary,PMP,CSM 
Demand is increasing in today’s world to improve the operation excellence to meet the competitions for
any project. Steps organization could take to get the maximum value in less time and less cost by
executing the projects through well defined proven process and demonstrate greater customer
satisfaction and achieve the target revenues are through an established process. Through quantitative
methods for measurement team can demonstrate and convince all stakeholders about the excellence.
Continuous performance improvement has to measure and demonstrate to show the operational
excellence. Increase productivity, Increase Quality, reduce cost is the mantra of Operation excellence
which team has to perform, measure and demonstrate.
According to Wikipedia Operational Excellence is a philosophy of leadership, teamwork and problem
solving resulting in continuous improvement throughout the organization by focusing on the needs of
the customer, empowering employees, and optimizing existing activities in the process.
Agile Manifesto twelve principles are, a) Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software, b)
Welcome changing requirements, even late in development, c) Working software is delivered frequently
(weeks rather than months), d) Working software is the principal measure of progress, e) Sustainable
development, able to maintain a constant pace, Close, f) daily co-operation between business people
and developers, g) Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location), h)
Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted, i) Continuous attention to
technical excellence and good design f) Simplicity g) Self-organizing teams, l) Regular adaptation to
changing circumstances.
In today’s world all organization has to increase the project execution speed to sustain the high
competition and reduce the time to market. Project Execution cycle time has to reduce continuously by
working smart with a smart process which is continuously evolving. The Organization which has the
ability to reduce the execution cycle time will have the competitive advantage.
Project can maximize operation excellence by following Agile practices. Organization can get the
expected output and reduce the execution cycle through best practices followed across industries within
Agile framework. Scrum masters and managers have to drive the agile process religiously to get the
required output. Agile provides value in less time to the customer.
Problem Statement
How can team Improve operation excellence by establishing agile process? How team can get the
maximum benefit out of the process by knowing the performance gap and through continuous
improvement? What are the measurement parameters to demonstrate that team is doing excellent in
Proposed approach:
Below are the highlighted points learnt during execution of the project and for the team the need was to
get maximum output by adopting agile methodology for execution of the project. All these flow has to
be monitored measure and drive for the ultimate results.
a) Effective Requirements management
b) Mindset Changes
c) Culture Changes
d) Communication management
e) Distributed team management
f) Metrics and measurement
g) Process improvement
Effective Requirements management:
Identifying features and creating backlogs is a major drive before start of the Agile project. Product
management and Architect involvement is critical to drive this product backlog creation. The major
conflict begins when the requirements are not obviously visible and technically viable. Business
management hesitates to invest if the product or project vision is not very clear. Agile accepts changes
but investor need to know how much and by when? More granular are the requirements, success rate
of agile project execution goes up. Tools play a critical role to capture the requirement state and
monitor and controls the requirements. The backlogs have to be traceable and tracked to closure.
Requirement changes have to be tracked and change management impact has to be monitored. The
fundamental of agile is change. Architecture should have ability to absorb those changes at any point of
Tasks designed,
reviewed and tested
and requirement
Requirements X1 User story X11
User story X22
User story X33
backlog X11
backlog X22
time in execution cycle. Change request has to add into the product backlog with priority set. Every
sprint should have capacity planning for the team to burn those feature.
Backlogs have to be broken into tasks in granular level (8 hrs) level so that tracking of developmentreview-
testing and requirement closure is efficiently done. Complete the high priority requirements,
ship those requirements to customer, take the inputs and update the requirements as new features in
the product backlogs and same cycle continues to maximize the customer satisfaction and value
Mindset Changes:
Agile demands mindset changes across the organization. At the core of agile execution it is the team
members who will drive the entire show. So the team members have to be always motivated to
successfully execute the show. The challenges some of the organization face to convince the top
management is to buy the agile process.
Traditional business drive will not work with the agile process. Contract and stakeholder management
has to be different. Agile needs dynamic and motivated team members. Organization policy has to align
or change accordingly so that agile projects get maximum value out of it. Agility, collaboration and team
player attitude are the key to the success for an agile project.
Team should attend seminars and training on agile happenings in the Industry. Need to try different way
of executing the tasks so that team can evolve continuously. Team members should be encouraged to
do the mistake and learn from the same and share the lessoned learned.
Progress and improvements has to be demonstrated continuously with the business leaders to reflect
the continuous business values. The success rate of the demo has to be measured and actions have to
be identified for continuous improvement. Data needs to be presented to the management from scrum
based project.
Traditional project Manager does not have any role to play in agile project. He/she can be a facilitator
and help the team to achieve the maximum burn down rate. She/he has to guard the team from
external interference so that team achieves the goal.
Culture Changes:
Agile embraces changes, agile expects fast decision making, agile expects frequent failure and learn from
the mistake. Agile expects mature team members, agile expects reduction of overheads. Not much
documentation work at starting.
Organization needs to recognition the team members who are contributing significantly for the sprint
velocity. The same drive should happen more frequent. Reward system has to be strong enough to
energize the contributors.
Infrastructure has to be up and running to share the information. Build machine, code repository,
communication lines etc has to be up and running .Infrastructure investment has to be prompt with
minimal follow-up.
Line management has to actively involve and manage highly motivated team members to maintain the
spirit and control the attrition. Involve wherever people management conflict arises.
Team should be small to increase the interaction and increase ownership. Large distributed team has
multiple side effects. Team building is fast and long lasting for small team.
Agile team need to form with proper team players like expert Architect, domain expert, experience
developer and experience test engineers etc. More team members could jeopardize the agile team
success rate if they are at entry level developers.
Information management:
One of the main pillars of agile project execution is communication and information sharing. How
efficiently team members communicate will directly impact the scrum team. Everybody should know
what is going on in SCRUM team. By applying all different mechanism for information sharing,
information has to radiate to all the stakeholders. Look for issues. Look for dependency, head on to
these so that team gets the correct velocity without failure. Leaders have to ensure for the smooth and
healthy communication among team members and stakeholders. There should be healthy conflicts but
need to control those if it is not helping project. Daily scrum, scrum of scrum, review discussion in all
kind of communication has to execute with mature team members so that every team members feel
that because of their contribution project status is changing. Team effort has to be highlighted always
rather than individual excellence.
Distributed team management:
Many global projects execute agile process, those projects have to take different approach and need to
take special care for execution. Agile heavily depends on prompt communication. Need to deploy
different mechanism to get the information without any delay. Mail, blogs, messenger, video
conference, telephone etc apply all mechanism to create a virtual collocate team. Distributed team need
to know culture to effectively work together. Line managers have to help if there are any conflict arises
which is beyond scrum team capability. There should be scrum of scrum meeting to resolve those issues.
Some time face to face interaction through travel from each side increase the team bonding and
collaboration, which is excellent and silver bullet to reduce conflicts. Centralize tool for data access is a
must. All stakeholders’ like product manager, business manager, consultants, and test engineers need to
be directly involved and contribute for effective agile execution. Team members have to be highly
adaptive so that they can get along with the global team.
Metrics and measurement:
Agile need different measurement and control mechanism to track the project health, to assess the
team performance, to assess the team output in terms of quality, to assess the team productivity. Team
should measure the velocity to predict the execution completion. Estimation accuracy play major role
for sprint planning. Over planning is bad for execution so minimal plan and execute and show shippable
artifacts. Agile avoids big bang delivery. Frequent workable software delivery is healthy way
demonstrate progress. Estimation need to improve constantly sprint by sprint to improve the efficiency.
“Doneness” matters a lot for scrum execution.”Doneness” is the measurement terms for scrum based
project where team calculates how many story points/features actually developed, reviewed, tested and
signed off from the product manager. Team need to control if doneness is not achieved 100%
consistently. Technical debt should not pile up continuously and become a mountain of issues hidden in
the shippable software which need to check and control. By focusing on test data metrics team can
efficiently track and measure the quality improvement which will reduce rework for future.
Process improvement:
Agile need continuous process improvement specific to the organization. Team has to religiously follow
continuously process improvement through retrospect, introspect and brainstorm. Every team members
should suggest some kind of continuous improvement after each and every sprint. Team should stop
doing what is not working and should explore more to get the maximum output. Individual has to be
responsible to capture all the improvement points and drive those points. The same should share with
other SCRUM team to get the inputs. Team members should have total empowerment for planning,
changing and controlling the process.
Agile need process to be strictly followed so that the teams get the desired output. All stakeholders have
to participate in sprint demonstration and contribute. High collaboration among team member is highly
expected like Architecture team vs development team vs testing team vs business analyst.
Product owner’s early involvement and continuous monitoring about the feature development
progress, correction is very much required. In absence of product owner involvement failure rate
increases. Sprint completion has to be signed off by the product owner with backlog closure.
Stakeholders continuous inputs are require to successfully execute the project.
Agile mostly follow test driven approach and delivering of working software. Really, really working
software that is the game changer. To maximize the output team should automate wherever possible.
Need to increase the automation to reduce the human intervention wherever applicable. Agile is a test
driven software development, so it should maximize test automation.
As agile puts active checkpoints throughout the project execution cycle it mitigate most of the risks and
deliver high quality software.
Business Impact:
Execution excellence is the key to deliver the product into the market into shortest timeframe.
Organization will get greater benefit if Agile can deploy and religiously follow and continuously improve.
Organization has to build agile team who are producing shippable product in less time and transparent
metrics should support the progress for effective measure and the project status. Tangible output has to
be shown to measure the progress. Team should deliver continuously high quality product and take
feedback to correct if required. By deploying agile team should demonstrate if schedule performance,
Budget performance, quality performance, cycle time reduction, productivity improvement, reducing
rework is in improvement path.
Conclusion & Future scope:
Agile if properly deployed and followed all the best practices most of the software project will escape
from failure and will achieve better execution efficiency. It takes time to mature up to a level where
organization can start observing the operation excellence from the agile team.

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