Julie MacNaughton: Hi, I’m Julie MacNaughton. I work with the training team here at Coveros. As a training manager I work closely with our instructors and I’m so happy today to have Jeff Pierce with me as we discuss agile coaching.
Jeff Pierce: Hi, I’m Jeff Pierce. I’ve been in the IT industry for more than 30 years managing and leading teams to successfully deliver software and software hardware systems and products. For the last 10 years I’ve been in various agile leadership roles either as a Scrum Master or an agile coach for a variety of commercial or government organizations. Currently in addition to delivering our agility courses, I am both an account manager for a commercial biotech research company and I’m also serving directly as an agile coach for a large government agency.
Julie MacNaughton: Jeff, you have tons of experience as an agile software engineer and as an agile coach. Can you define for us what is an agile coach, and as a coach, how important are the tenets of agile?
Jeff Pierce: I get asked this question a lot. An agile coach is simply a person who helps teams or individuals adopt agile methods and practices. In reality, a good coach will actually help people rethink and change the way they approach their work. Agile has several goals. The most important being value delivery through working software but also to become more efficient through more communication and collaboration by working together as a team. Adapting and overcoming obstacles together. You’re capitalizing on the idea that many hands lighten the load and many heads together will create better solutions more efficiently.
You asked about the importance of agile principles in all this. The principles obviously define agile, so they are at the heart of what it is to be agile. But if you look at the principles carefully, they succinctly define how you have to behave to foster good teamwork and collaboration. They set the priorities – which is obviously delivering value to your clients – but also define behaviors to support high performance collaborative teams that strive to continually improve what they do.
In my experience I’ve certainly encountered teams that are in the beginnings of their agile journeys and they start off kind of just paying lip service to the principles and behaviors. This rapidly becomes obvious and can lead to failure. I also know that if you don’t fundamentally change the way you work nothing’s really going to change. So, you really have to sit down and look at how things are done and ask yourself why is it done this way and could we potentially do it better another way. Think through your ideas if one of them looks promising—try it. And most importantly, learn from the experience.
Julie MacNaughton: So, we know how important formal training can be for companies that are transitioning to agile or those that are in the middle of a transition. How can coaching also help progress?
Jeff Pierce: Let me talk about formal training for just a second. It’s really an important element to any transformation endeavor. It’s especially important when working to change the new methodologies and processes that everyone has the same vocabulary and understanding of the goals along with roles and responsibilities within the new organizational construct. Our agile fundamentals course does exactly this. It helps people understand the reasons for moving to agile and the mindset you have to have to approach transforming to agile. Without understanding the motivations and the goals, people are less likely to really try to change the way they do things. AFM (Agile Fundamentals) also provides students with the basic framework of agile methodologies and processes along with roles and responsibilities to be able to successfully begin operating an agile manner.
Coaching has been shown to rapidly accelerate agile adoption and improve the benefits gained from agile implementations. Coaches have experience with agile implementation and transformation and can help avoid pitfalls while helping organizations create the agile processes that are right for them. Agile coaches can help both at the organizational level and with individuals, whether they be leadership or management or the technical team members, who may not even be aware of the things they are doing that will stifle innovation and growth.
Julie MacNaughton: So you’ve worked with a number of different types of organizations that are transitioning to agile. Can you tell us about success story?
Jeff Pierce: Sure. When I teach AFM (Agile Fundamentals) I like to talk about the agile adoption we did for a medical device company who produces heart pumps. I like sharing this experience because it involves a company doing both hardware and software together in a heavily regulated environment. As a Class III medical device, the FDA review procedures are stringent, and the safety critical nature of the product really speaks to the need for quality.
“It’s a myth that you cannot be agile in a regulated environment.”
—Jeff Pierce, Agile Coach and Managing Consultant
We started with an agile assessment using a measurement model that we developed that has worrying heuristics defined to provide standardization for the measurements we use across different organizations. And this assessment and the subsequent information analysis netted us a list of observations and recommendations that we used as a foundation for the roadmap and plan that we built collaboratively with the client for their agile implementation.
We started with an AFM (Agile Fundamentals) class the level set the entire project team. We then engaged with the client to help them pilot into a scrum-based process for developing their software and hardware as part of this process we developed. We helped them implement some technologies to support agile – creating build pipelines that automated build deployments to their hardware in the test lab and then ran automated tests we developed for them to ensure that the builds were appropriate quality for production release. We also help them implement an integrated management system that managed and maintained requirements stories tests test results and allowed them to generate the traceability documentation required for FDA audit compliance.
We saved them tremendous time while improving their product and deployment quality. So you know, this is really was really a successful story. They were able to gain a premarket approval (PMA) from the FDA. It was it was hard work. The team really got behind it and we were very successful. I tell you I wish I’d invested in their stock.
Julie MacNaughton: I’d also like to mention that we do have case studies or references for anyone who’s interested and can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie MacNaughton: So one last question for you, Jeff. What would you tell someone who is looking into agile or doesn’t know much about agile? Where would you tell them to start?
Jeff Pierce: There’s a tremendous amount of information readily available by agile but I would caution people to be careful and choose sources who have actually experienced agile transformations so that they get the benefit of that experience.
Coveros is an industry leader an agile transformations and DevOps implementations, and we provide many training options including numerous classes that are delivered as on sites pre conference training and live instructor led events. We also publish a plethora of blogs and articles webinars case studies videos and other presentations where we provide listeners and students with our real-world experiences and proven techniques for being successful with agile and DevOps. Come talk to us – will help you.
Julie MacNaughton: Thanks, Jeff, for your time today. And for those that have any questions please feel free to reach out to us. Thanks so much.