Over here at Cybay New Media we are in the middle of the transformation from traditional waterfall-ish processes to the agile approach. We’ve had some sessions with consultants with the whole team, but changing the minds of employees regarding the way they do there everyday work is not that easy. All of the publications available out there share one disadvantage: They tend to be not entertaining. Most of them come as a set of thoughts, packed in a very theoretical discourse, which makes it hard to be aware of all side effects - especially when it comes to emotions.

People are creatures of habit. Having solved problems in a constant way for years (or even decades) constitutes a very strong habit. Even when that way produces the same problems and glitches every time applied, people tend to stick with it for a single reason: They made themself comfortable with it. Breaking these habits is the main challenge, and it is the main reason for failing in the agile transformation.

Don’t get me wrong. In my opinion, agile is the way to go. But it’s hard for especially non IT people (which tend to be in touch with agile concepts for a longer time) to change their minds.

Nonetheless, we are implementing KANBAN in our daily work as more and more companies around the world do. We are facing the same problems, sharing the same challenges as everyone else out there. I also had a hard time understanding the core concepts, making myself believe that this approach can (and will!) work for me as an employee and for my company. I tried self-educating myself with some of the aforementioned publications, but what really flipped the switch for me was a novel. Yes. A novel, not a theoretical discourse.

The Phoenix Project

I read „The Phoenix Project“ by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford. It tells the story of the fictional „Parts Unlimited“ company and the main actor „Bill“, who is a IT manager forced the save his department using KANBAN principles.

The books summary says:

Bill is an IT manager at Parts Unlimited. It's Tuesday morning and on his drive into the office, Bill gets a call from the CEO. The company's new IT initiative, code named Phoenix Project, is critical to the future of Parts Unlimited, but the project is massively over budget and very late. The CEO wants Bill to report directly to him and fix the mess in ninety days or else Bill's entire department will be outsourced. With the help of a prospective board member and his mysterious philosophy of The Three Ways, Bill starts to see that IT work has more in common with manufacturing plant work than he ever imagined. With the clock ticking, Bill must organize work flow streamline interdepartmental communications, and effectively serve the other business functions at Parts Unlimited. 

As mentioned before, this is entertaining style. It's a novel about process optimization. I only can hardly recommend getting a copy of that book for anyone getting in touch witch agile.

Finally, a single quote from the book:

"Any improvement that is not made at the bottleneck is superfluous."