Identifying the right pilot project is an extremely important first step towards your Agile transformation journey.
While selecting a pilot project, I generally look for the following characteristics:
- Importance: We don’t want to start with a project, which could shut down your business if things went wild. Nor do we want to pick a small pet project. Even if we proved Agile works well, it won’t appeal to the organization as it won’t be representative nor credible. A critical project with high-enough stakes is ideal.
- Dependencies: Fairly self-contained projects with minimum external dependencies are relatively easier for introducing change. If the team does not have the necessary skill or authority to take decision or if most of the project’s attributes are outside the organization’s control, it would be a very difficult pilot project.
- Stakeholder Engagement: Access to all the stakeholders is critical. Their involvement and buy-in is extremely important to make any sustainable change.
- Top-Management Support: During the transition, the team will run into many roadblocks and challenges. Having a good management support and backing will motivate the team to creatively solve those problems.
- Duration: To effectively capitalize on the learning and excitement, it’s important for the pilot project to be between 4-9 months.
- Size: A single collocated team with less than 10 members is an ideal size to coach. Gradually we can grow this team to large multi-site geographically distributed team/s.
- Stage: If the project was already in a fire-fighting mode, the team members would be under too much pressure to try anything different. If it’s a laid-back large maintenance project, team members might not have the motivation to change large legacy system. Project in its early stages with most of its team members on-board, seems to be a good stage to introduce Agile and Lean thinking.
- Team Composition: Most successful organizations have strong (vocal) leaders or connectors at the grass-root level. If we can influence these folks early on, they can be our internal change-agents. Hence while picking a pilot project, we consider their density in the pilot team.
Identifying a project with all these characteristics would be ideal, but is rarely the case. A good coach knows how to make reasonable trade-offs.