It has a very tough and busy year so far. I started studying Agile (specifically Scrum) as a possible methodology for us to transition to last fall. I had participated in a couple of Agile projects as a contributor and thought it showed promise. I tried reading half a dozen different books and my head was swimming trying to wrap my head around the concepts. Then I stumbled across The Elements of Scrum while on Thanksgiving vacation. That book changed everything. After reading it, all the other books made sense. The direction I needed to go was suddenly clear.

After returning from vacation, I ramped up my stealth experimental implementation with one particular project team and the results were very promising. I had planned to submit a proposal to the company in the late spring outlining how and why we should transition to an Agile team based shop. Well, like most plans it did not go quite as I expected. Instead I was asked to submit the proposal several weeks before I was planning on even starting it. Instead of having days to put it together, I had hours. Then when it was accepted with lightening speed I was expected to come up with a transition and training plan. All this while working towards a very tight deadline on a complicated project and studying for the PMI-ACP exam (which I’ll be taking later this month). Clearly I must be wicked because I’m getting no rest.

We built our first release today. While it is not perfect, it is beautiful. It is evident that there were five minds collaborating on how it should work rather than just one or two. I am actively looking forward to presenting it to the client on Monday and getting their feedback. My personal mission statement as a project manager the last few years has been to find the simplest solutions for making our clients jobs easier. I think this project accomplishes just that.

Watching the team progress through the forming and storming stages was amusing at times and heartwarming at others. We compounded our transitional process by added new programming languages to the mix, but it was past time to upgrade and it had to be done. We finally hit the performing stage this week and I’m starting to worry about having enough of the upcoming backlog groomed to keep up with the team.

The biggest change so far is the improvement of moral. Not just the moral of my team members and myself, but the moral of the rest of production. One R&D team has made the transition and really seems to love it. The other developers who have not transitioned yet keep stopping me to ask questions and are clearly excited about it. It has breathed new life and hope into our little part of the coding world. One of my team members mentioned that he had not seen the movie office space. I told him he should wait until he has a bad day at work then go home and watch it. His reply was that he no longer has bad days at work. That made me smile.

The transition is not easy. We’re still working on getting estimates down and figuring out what our velocity is. I don’t think we are doing proper unit testing yet, but it has been discussed as something we want to do more of. We’re having to learn and implement the agile tools and processes incrementally, but that’s what Agile is all about, continual improvement. I really think the pain of the transition will be worth it.

Elizabeth Ross Towles, PMP, CSSGB