In our last blog, we re-introduced the story of the Chicken and the Pig regarding commitment to a project or cause. When providing a dish of ham and eggs, the two actors do not have the same level of commitment. By providing the ham, the pig makes a real sacrifice and is truly committed while the chicken is only involved.
Agile Nerds like us believe the core team are pigs and the stakeholders are chickens.
The intent of this blog is to make one simple point;
It is not good enough for federal agencies to include agile language in their requests for proposals, the government must invest directly in third party agile transformation.
On the left of our cartoon, you have aggressive, lean, and organized rugby players (commercial practices) that are unburdened by the weight of helmets and pads (bureaucracy). On the right, you have old-school, overweight football players (GovCon) that are not incented to move fast.
Chicken referee is frustrated because his rules say, “Be Agile!” - but nothing changes.
Fat, Slow, GovCon Captain has no idea what to do...and knows agile transformation will take resources.
Lean, Fast, Rugby Commercial Captain shakes his head in dismay...and continues to get the job DONE.
The government needs teams organized like Google, Pivotal, and Netflix. These teams’ product management styles have transformed the U.S. technology landscape and return countless value to stakeholders. If these practices are successfully applied to the federal government, they will reduce the tax dollars spent on IT and increase the value created for our nation.
While we are in total support of organizations like Digital Services and GSA 18F, our thesis is that their approach does not consider the current incentives in government contracting. GSA 18F helps include clarifying language and contracting procedures to demand professional services use the artifacts and ceremonies of disciplines like Scrum, but it is akin to telling a football team to play rugby. The football team might give rugby a try, but would they really know what they were doing?
Why would a professional services company defer the billable hours (opportunity cost) and cost of top tier agile training to drive organizational change without direct compensation (consider LPTA)?
Is there a strong incentive for a time and materials contractor to be faster and more efficient?
The transformation required to enable modern product development processes is a significant organizational investment. It is a cultural change that takes time and effort to affect.
It is not enough to say, “Be Agile!”
It takes the commitment of a coach (one willing to give a piece of himself or herself) to mentor, coach, and teach the large variety of federal managers and professional services companies that often support a single complex project. Moreover, the federal government must have technically educated and cognizant product owners.
We believe the government should invest directly. Contract agile consultants to train federal managers and government contractors alike. Baseline the team’s training with similar or complementary methods, norms, and language.
Be accountable - Using Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) as the precedent, engage agile coaches to ensure federal leaders and government contractors are applying the practices in manner that optimizes the performance of the contractors across scaled teams.
After the hard yards are done and an organic capability exists, transition responsibilities from the agile consultants to the federal product owner and standing core team.
To change the game, put skin in it.