Staffing up quickly for Agile

Photo by drburtoniA lot of organisations want to “go Agile” quickly, and ramp up their staff accordingly. I’ve spoken to a few people recently who are experiencing this now. Unfortunately it’s very problematic.

Many execs see their peers getting good results from their Agile projects, they’re told by industry analysts that this is the only way to go, or (in one case I know) they think it’s what they need to do to keep their staff. Whatever the reason, too often there is a significant gap between what is demanded and what is achievable.

Staffing up any activity quickly is difficult. There are rarely sufficiently skilled people readily available. With activities like technology those people need to be particularly highly skilled. And with Agile it’s more difficult still.

One of the characteristics of Agile is that there is comparatively little emphasis on mandated formal techniques. There are plenty of good Agile techniques, but there aren’t as many as in, say, PRINCE2 or accountancy or flying commercial airliners, and few of them are mandated. Instead, the focus is skewed much more towards soft skills. Therefore it’s much more difficult to identify high quality people. Many organisations instead identify a lot of mediocre people and wonder why everyone else thinks this Agile thing is so great.

It’s round about this time in the blog post that I like to pass on some pithy words that help me in these kind of situations. But this time I don’t have any. Agile isn’t a technique you can just drop into a large organisation and see quick benefits. The emphasis on soft skills mean that a shift to Agile isn’t just as hard as cultural change, it is cultural change. It takes a long time.