Adopting Agile methodology requires a culture change, and changing a culture is never easy; especially when there’s no template to follow.  In August of 2012, the client learning organization (my team) at DTCC decided to change its culture switch from ADDIE and use Agile as our approach to developing learning solutions.

Prior to adopting Agile, we were unable to find any case studies that documented how to go about it. We therefore decided to blaze a path and leave a trail.  The team followed five steps that we believe allowed our Agile implementation to be successful.  Here they are:

1.  Determine if Agile is right for your organization

In order for Agile to work you must have an organizational culture that can accept it, individuals that will buy in, and a burning platform to justify the switch. At the time that we were investigating the switch to Agile, every other organization in the DTCC complex was using waterfall approaches to get their work done. Many employees were frustrated with the rework and delays that this methodology helped to facilitate.  The learning team was especially demoralized at the time that it took to get training programs approved.

These conditions made the organization ripe for a change. The feeling of demoralization on the part of the training team was the burning platform and in addition we were staffed with a core of talented and resilient individuals that could absorb change. We therefore believed that the iterative nature of Agile with its frequent delivery of “working software”  was right for us.

2. Execute quickly. Don’t delay the implementation

Some are of the school of thought that change should be phased in slowly. My belief is that when there is going to be a major change like process alteration, its better do do it quick and move on. At DTCC once the announcement that we were switching to Agile was made, training on the new (Agile) process began immediately, and the process shift began right away. Truth be told, although the announcement was immediate, the leadership team and I had been socializing the concept of Agile with the staff for several weeks.

3.  Provide training

In order for Agile to be successful, everyone in the organization must receive training on the process. Having made the case for the switch to Agile (communicating when it would happen and how it might affect both the organization and individuals), the next step was to ensure that all our team members had the necessary tools to implement this new approach. We accomplished this by using an outside vendor to train the entire learning organization on Agile methodology.

4.  Listen, but resist the urge to help 

Employees will have a lot of questions when your teams first start using Agile. The natural inclination of many managers is to answer those questions to the best of your ability. Don’t do it. If Agile is going to work, you must resist this urge. Agile is about the team solving their own problems and finding answers to their questions.

5.  Find nuggets of gold

There’s a good chance that when you initially switch to Agile the team will be unsure and uncomfortable. When this happens it’s important to seek out those nuggets of gold or the things that do work well. It’s important to highlight those successes to the entire organization. I accomplished this by delivering weekly video messages to my staff.  These messages highlighted every Agile success that individuals had.

Implementing Agile can be a daunting task. We, however, found that the five steps highlighted above allowed us to have a relatively smooth transition from ADDIE.