IJI Places Emphasis on the People to Keep LV= GI Ahead of the Curve

Accelerating Delivery with Agile

The Challenges

  • Pockets of Agility were transitioning to new technologies, processes and ways of working, but the broader corporate landscape was following traditional practices. They needed alignment.
  • Throughout the first Program Increments, it became evident that not all work came from the central Program Backlog. A game of whack-a-mole ensued. While one way of avoiding the change approval process was closed down, another one would appear.
  • Simplifying seven ‘pseudo portfolios’ into a single portfolio. SAFe®’s definition of a Portfolio is “a set of investments”. In SAFe®’s case, the investment is made in Agile Release Trains.
  • LV= GI, like many others, wanted to capitalise their software development. They would achieve this through time reporting; every developer, every Friday afternoon, had to log their weekly hours against a project code. It was deemed unproductive

The Solution and the Results

At IJI, we place emphasis on helping people to help themselves. We worked with LV= GI to ensure that key personnel within the organisation, most notably their PMO, had a deep understanding of the principles behind Lean-Agile development. We helped organise the staff into Agile Release Trains and coached them through their first few planning events.

“We can react more quickly to changing priorities – especially with smaller/medium size initiatives.” - Laura Russell, GI Change and Governance Manager

With a little steering advice from IJI, the LV= GI team were able to start changing the processes. Organic changes in behaviours and culture within the organisation began to unfold. This principle-based approach allowed individuals to make sensible assessments of whether the organisation’s processes and practices fit the Lean and Agile approach that they were trying to adopt.

Laura Russell, GI Change and Governance Manager, who led the project at LV= GI explained that there were inevitable challenges to get everyone onboard to begin with.

“We got some initial resistance from those who thought things were working ok and there was no need to change. There was an element of challenge from a few colleagues who may have had concerns that adopting more agile ways of working and more local team empowerment would diminish their own responsibilities. But along the way people understood how beneficial it was to the business and in contrast we’re now seeing a huge amount of interest from other business teams and a steady stream of requests for training, info and support in introducing Agile ways of working.”

Various back-door routes (for getting teams to do work) were eventually shut down, and things started to be channelled into the central GI Portfolio. The release trains and scrum teams were still empowered to manage local change, but under the oversight of the Product Management team rather than via ad hoc requests.

One individual portfolio was defined and given increased leadership. This portfolio was owned by LV= GI’s Executive Committee who make investment and value decisions; what trains to fund, what work should consume funding.

Working with the Finance team, the capitalisation process was rewritten to make it work for Agile. Finance were very open to the change and it was a great collaboration. Work is now capitalised on an epic basis, and the monthly reporting required is supported by tooling that was configured specifically to suit the task. Friday afternoon time recording was abandoned, uplifting motivation and productivity.

“I was pleased with how quickly and positively those doing the work (the scrum teams) took to the new model and have become more willing to try new things and to actively seek improvement.” Laura elaborates, “we now have an accepted ethos around failing fast, test and learn and continuous improvement.”

To encourage the wider adoption of Agile, PMO revamped their dashboards and health checks to better suit Agile. Scrum metrics were widely introduced and typical Agile metrics such as predictability and team Agility checks were adopted. Whereas before the scrum teams were having to fit into waterfall ways of working, now the onus was on encouraging and strengthening Agile adoption across the whole of change delivery.

Laura stated the benefits of adopting Agile have been even more evident in 2020.

“We can react more quickly to changing priorities – especially with smaller/medium size initiatives. An example is the recent disruption seen at the end of PI-8 and into PI-9 – the teams were diverted from their original commitments onto covid19 response work and got a lot of change live in a short space of time. It was a great morale boost.”

““IJI have been very supportive, and I still call on Brian to help us out with training. We’ve also used some of the external training options – the RTE and SPC courses”

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