The Agile Working Group

By Arlen Bankston

One common aspect of agile adoptions are groups tasked with leading and supporting the effort. I have done a presentation that covers this at a high level, which is available in textual format here.  Sanjiv’s book also covers this to some degree.  Below are a few high level points to keep in mind if you’re considering forming an Agile Working Group or Agile Steering Committee.

The Agile Working Group is the mover and shaker of transformation efforts, providing a central point of support for the training, coaching and change efforts in general. It’s most common failure mode is a lack of true commitment.  The group should be set up something like an agile team, with:

  • Reasonable time and focus dedication for at least core members
  • Regular meeting cadence and location
  • Careful WIP limiting
  • Consistent focus on tangible deliveries/progress
  • Demonstrations of deliverables to customers

Without such support in place, little happens while everyone is busy with their day jobs, and the group simply dies of attrition.  I like linking these working groups to active coaches as well, since they generally already have the time, knowledge and interest necessary to imbue the group with positive energy and maintain momentum.

The Agile Leadership Team sets goals, clears obstacles and celebrates progress in the early days, helping to show that the company as a whole is behind the effort. However, they become truly critical when the organization is ready for big changes (e.g. different budgeting/financing structures, performance review models, portfolio management procedures etc).  The working group would still tend to do the heavy lifting in terms of formulating new plans, but the leadership team must be well engaged for transformations where true business impact is desired beyond just a handful of individual teams.

Both teams are meant to be transitional, and their missions and compositions alike can be expected to change over time alongside the organization’s needs and challenges. Eventually, management and governance structures will be in place, coaching and training support structures will be well established, and more localized assistance can to a large degree replace the centralized change management effort.

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