I am writing this blog because of the difficulty, frustration, loss of productivity and drop in company morale that was caused by my company’s transition from a tradition project management structure to Agile.
The company I work for was founded in 2017 as a joint venture. It was staffed mainly by professionals from both companies, which used traditional, waterfall, style project management to bring their new products to market.
There are a few aspects of this situation that makes it interesting to explore further:
- The product was a hardware product, a smart home kitchen appliance.
- The entire company’s bonus, including stock option grants, was dependent tied to launching the product about 6 months sooner than the waterfall schedule said was possible if everything went perfectly right.
- The joint venture was a combination of two very different cultures. One party could be described as having a command-and-control mindset driven by requirements set by marketing. The other was made up of an existing technical team with a track record of developing technically refined product that lacked clear market.
After working together for over a year we had a dysfunctional culture that was not going to meet the deadline. Measures of employee engagement were some of the worst seen by the company administering the study. Engineering leadership did not agree with the product design and had initiated a skunk-works to redesign the product under their direction. The engineering staff complained of being told how to solve problems by their superiors. Nobody believed we were going to launch the product on time.
Everyone’s jobs were at risk if something did not change, and quickly. This was when our CEO came back from holiday with a clear conclusion; The incremental improvements that had been implemented were not having much, if any, effect and the company needed to make a radical change if it was to have a chance of surviving. Although I wish I was the one who identified Agile as the solution, it was my CEO who brought in copies of the book “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” by Jeff Sutherland (link) for everyone on his leadership team.