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How to get executive buy-in

So, your former colleague started working in a company that transitioned to Agile methods, told you how awesome they are, and you started doing some research yourself.  You consulted the Almighty Google and found that Harvard Business Review said "agile methods have revolutionized information technology"....and..."Now it is poised to transform nearly every other function in every industry".

 

You're excited now, this could be the difference in YOUR company!

 

So how do you get your executives to give you the go-ahead?

 

Many companies have moved to agile methods, so you could take the data into the executives (for example, this video about the Standish Group's annual CHAOS report, which says that a Winning Hand includes Agile Methods) and you'll probably get a slam dunk.

 

But what if that doesn't work?

 

Is it possible that you can follow Agile Methods without approval from the executives?  It depends on your situation.

 

Are you in a large company that sets goals that leave room for you to decide how to achieve them?  Then perhaps, you can apply agile methods, even in a traditional project plan, which can include: Sprint 0 (a time-boxed iteration similar to the planning and requirements phase, where you can: Create the initial backlog,  Establish the team, have them Estimate in T-Shirt sizes, Write working agreements, definitions of ready and done, and Setup the environments the team will need to move quickly), Sprint 1, Sprint 2, and so on, with predefined Sprint Goals that align with the Epics and Features you need to build, along with customer feedback loops and time for a final SIT, UAT and regression (since you're not fully agile, and those activities would probably not be included in the sprints).  

 

Then you can track real progress against those goals, and your status report won't show green when it's not.  You'll have the REAL information to give up to date, accurate, transparent information about where the team is, the obstacles they need to overcome to finish the project, and can use those to adjust to whatever happens.

 

As you're moving forward, you can introduce some technical best practices that will allow you to move towards agility. Practices like automated unit tests, agreed coding standards, behavior or test-driven development, continuous integration, pair or mob programming, peer code reviews, and release planning can help build skills within your team whether you ever get buy-in or not.

 

In a large company, no one asks HOW you reach your goal, they only care whether you do or not.  However, if you find that agile delivery methods help you, let everyone know! Perhaps your success will make your Executives change their opinion?

 

Are you in a smaller company with an Executive that's involved in everything you do?  This might be more difficult, but even in that situation, there is hope.  Every executive I have coached had an interest in efficiency and doing more with less.  Lean practices pair well with Agile Delivery methods, and I've seen huge success when a company uses both, even with one that had a big failure with their first Scrum transition. 

 

Have you found a technique that helps gain Executive buy-in that I haven't mentioned?  Comment below so others can learn from your experience!

 

This topic was introduced in the Agile Topics for All session at ITPalooza 2017

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