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And Now For Something Completely Different

by Angela 12. July 2013 09:15

So, I feel like most (if not all) of my posts have largely revolved around ALM events and specific features of the Visual Studio product line. After quite a few conversations with customers frustrated with the non-bits and bytes aspects of ALM, I wanted to write down some thoughts on some things I am seeing out in “the real world”. You see, we always talk about how ALM is about people, process, and tools. And 9 times out of 10 (maybe more like 49 out of 50 in reality) any ALM talk I go to focuses only on process and/or tooling. Why? Because solving the people problem is HARD. Nay, that implies people are a problem, and that it is one that can be solved. In a lot of cases, the best you can hope to do is recognize the challenges, address the low hanging fruit in the short term, and in the long term support people’s evolution to a more agile way of thinking in any way that you can. But like me, you may have Microsoft certifications, or even Scrum.org certifications, but you certainly don’t have a degree in psychology.

You can educate people on the principals of agile but you can’t MAKE people truly embrace them, and it can be incredibly frustrating if you’ve seen the mountains of evidence, and maybe even have personal success stories of your own proving it is the right direction for a team. Kind of like me knowing that if I went to the gym regularly and started paying attention to what I ate, I would be a much healthier and physically fit person, but I can’t seem to convince myself to make the 1.5 block walk to the local gym to do it. Sad, I know. But I’m working on it, kinda. The roadblock I see even more often is that while the team wants to give it a go, management’s attitude is that “agile couldn’t possibly work for MY organization”. It is always followed by reasons like “’we’re too big”, “we’re too small”, “we’re too heavily regulated”, or my favorite “I couldn’t possibly TRUST my developers enough to give them that kind of freedom”. This is where I try not to look completely horrified in front of the person who just said that. I’m a professional after all J

I joke about wanting to go back to school for a degree in psychology sometimes when I find myself in these situations. Honestly, I’m only kind of joking. Being an ALM practitioner is not just about knowing how to configure a build server, or create a new work item type, or even migrate a massive organization to the awesomeness that is the Visual Studio ALM toolset (or any other ALM tool for that matter, I happen to be Microsoft focused). Those things help, a lot. But it’s also about leading organizations through cultural transformations, whether those be massive agile transformations, or simply getting teams to have a more healthy, open, and collaborative relationship on the simplest of terms. They will need mentoring, maybe even hand-holding to get through some of the roadblocks of a massive change. This is true in ANY walk of life, but for now I am focusing on the software development world.

I apologize that this is a bit of a teaser, but people tend to get bored pretty quickly so I’ll leave you here and promise to dive into something even deeper in my next post. And as always, I’d love to hear about your own experiences, or be linked to some particularly helpful advice you’ve come across. I am a passionate evangelist and agilista, but I’m by no means an expert, yet. That will take many, many more years, and even more grey hair (that you will never see!).

Tags:

Application Lifecycle Management | ALM | Agile | Team Foundation Server | Visual Studio | Process Methodology

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