Walls coming Down

This last month we have taken down around 100 personal cubes and replaced them with team pods. 9 pods and counting. Here are some before and after pictures. Pretty cool.


It’s Offical – Ping Pong and Fooseball Table

Check out what we got in our office this last month. Awesome!

Agile Community of Thinkers Conference – Invitation

Last week I got invited to attend the “Community of Thinkers” conference hosted by Rally in Boulder, Colorado on May 10-11. It looks like this is the first time Rally will be holding a conference like this and is also invitation only. They want to explore Agile, Kanban, Continuous Flow, as well as Rally and AgileZen tools.  It also looks like the goal of the conference is to build a community through sharing, teaching and learning. Rally’s coaches, product and technical account management teams will host this event and it is limited to 150 guests.

Rally created this conference to help the entire Agile community, amplify your professional development and expand your social media presence. This is an open-space conference, a social web-storm, a party, a community philanthropy project and a gathering of some of the best and brightest Agile practitioners on the planet. It is not what you think of as a typical software users conference.

Rally’s goal is to create an interactive site of stories about Agile in the enterprise that will benefit the entire community. The conference sessions will be facilitated and focused on face-to-face interaction amplified by social media. The results of these sessions and dialogues will be professionally crafted to form a knowledge base of adoption stories and patterns open to the entire community.

Rally believe this knowledge base will be invaluable for all of us to extend the benefits of Agile beyond multi-team execution and to increase the professionalism in our industry. We are trying to capture insights from 10 years of Agile application from some of the best practitioners in the world.

Agile Development at John Deere – Come Join Us

Tomorrow’s advances in planting and harvesting operations, crop yield management, vehicle guidance and farm enterprise data management will be largely driven by Deere’s ability to rapidly develop and deploy new intellectual property, much of which will be embodied in software.

In enterprise settings such as Amazon, Google, Boeing and others, agile and lean software development methods have proven their ability to decrease time to market, as well as significantly improve quality and productivity of software development. To address the challenge of “developing more and better software, more quickly”, ISG is also adopting lean|agile development as its new software development paradigm

What Changes in Agile?
Agile development differs from its waterfall predecessors by dividing big projects into small deliverables that deliver value more quickly. Risk is mitigated as large projects are broken into smaller, more immediately evaluable increments. Funding is incremental. Software assets are built incrementally. As a system, software development is more responsive to changing market conditions. (For more insights on the rationale behind agile development, see http://www.rallydev.com/agileblog/2010/08/five-reasons-why-cios-should-consider-agile-development/).

Adopting agile development is a substantial change initiate for us. Functional silos between architecture, product management, development and test are broken down. Small, dedicated agile teams are being formed and aligned around products and features. The new role of “product owner” is being implemented to empower software teams to prioritize incoming work. Testing personnel are being dedicated to agile teams to accelerate the validation cycle. In this way, each small team has the ability and empowerment to “define/build/test” a thing of value for our customers. Teams are also being organized to deliver value in larger programs on an “Agile Release Train” model that provides cadence and synchronization of planning and software asset construction.

What Doesn’t Change in Agile?
While the teams and trains are empowered to deliver value, they do not, by themselves, determine the product and solution vision. That responsibility remains with product management and product marketing. However, the relationship with development is more tightly integrated with major initiatives aggregated around release planning milestones. Product, portfolio and program management must also evolve quickly to make crisper prioritization decisions and master the ability to break large initiatives into smaller chunks that can deliver value more quickly and avoid overloading the development teams with excessive work in process. So while these larger responsibilities don’t really change, the manner in which they are executed typically changes fairly dramatically.

Initiating an agile transformation at John Deere ISG scale is no small feat, but the business imperative demands we succeed. In order to thrive in the next decades, we must be as competent in building and deploying customer friendly software solutions as we are at building the worlds’ best agriculture and heavy construction equipment. At ISG, agile development is a big part of that equation.

If you would like to join our John Deere team, visit the John Deere career site and search for jobs in Iowa/Urbandale.

The Train Continues to Roll

Today marks our 30th day of doing large scale agile development at John Deere ISG. For me it is hard to believe how well things are working. I remember the week before we rolled out agile we were having hard discussions about whether this was the right time to make the change with a critical deadline. One day Dean and I were walking back from a meeting and I asked “Is this how all rollouts go?” His answer that day was, “No, you guys are reaching the one sigma range to the zany side (see yellow star).” Last week I asked him the same question and his response was, “The Release Train progress is nothing short of awesome.” You’re still one sigma off, but it’s to the good side this time.” I also remember another conversation a week before I was heading to EU to get teams started over there. Someone said, “Let’s not rush the EU training, can we wait until Dean comes over in November to do the “official” training. My response was, “Sorry, I booked a nonrefundable ticket.”

I’ve always known that there is so much potential in the people at Deere, we just needed to figure out a way to unleash it. Well, I think the power of the people is unleashed!  Everyone should be proud of where we have come from and where we are heading. I know everything is not perfect and there are still challenges ahead of us, but that is what fuels me to come into work every day.

Looking forward I am excited about where we are heading. From an Enterprise level, everyone wants to know what we are doing and how it works. I usually share some Agile slides with them and tell them to come and visit. I tell them there is a huge difference between hearing about Agile and seeing Agile. So don’t be surprised if you see new faces walking around our area or attending daily scrums. On November 2nd, I presented to the CIO and Director of Ag on what Agile is in 30 minutes. Overall, I thought it went really well and they understand the model and support us.

At an local level, everyone department wants to get engaged with Agile. This included Portfolio Planning, HR, Tactical Marketing, Legal, Architecture and Accounting. This is where the next set of challenge will come from, but I know we will find a way to fix them.

 I think those are the topics that I’ll blog about next along with next trains being rolled out.

Wave 1 of Agile Rollout Started

As I promised, I would start blogging about the Agile rollout I am leading within my organization and describe how things are going so that others can learn just as I have learned from many others that have gone through the same experience.

The last two weeks was everything I thought it would have been. It included lots of excitement a few fears and everything in-between. Our scope of the first rollout was 120 people involved in 10-20 projects with all kinds of critical dates to other organizations. We also added 40 managers, some from my organization and some from other parts so that they can understand the change.

Managers were introduced to basic and advanced agile principals and practices, scrum as a mechanism for implementing team level software agility, agile technical and quality practices and the Agile Release Train as a means to provide strategic alignment and visibility across the organization. Teams were trained on similar topics, but focused on the Agile process called Scrum. Teams learned about backlogs, sprints, roles and how it will be applied at ISG.

 In addition to training, 14 scrum teams built “Big Visible Informational Radiators” that are posted around the buildings that show their daily status and objectives of the next four weeks. These BVIR’s will serve as a communication means to the organization. These teams are not alone in learning Agile and are supported by two highly experienced qualified coaches to answer questions and help ensure objectives are being met.

Looking forward, we will monitor the status of these 14 teams and make adjustments that will be applied to future team rollouts. In addition to monitoring status and planning for the next wave, I will travel to Europe to engage more managers and teams on the model we are applying.

 As for my retro on the first rollout:

Worked well:

  • Having everyone in one room rather than doing training in small groups
  • Including everyone that is working on the same system
  • Creating the teams ahead of time
  • Having coaches on site so that they can help in breakout sessions
  • Training the managers before the teams were trained so that they can support their people
  • Having managers and directors talk before the training explaining how they support this initiative


  • Making sure food showed up on time
  • Ordering rolling white boards for each team so that they could use them for task boards
  • Collected all of the critical dates and made them visible to all team members so that it would help with sprint planning
  • Met with coaches to give them more context so that it could be applied during training

 Overall, I thought it went great and have received compliments. However, here is no real end to this Agile endeavor where execution will be flawless, or even “good enough.” I have entered a new Agile state where change is the norm, rather than the exception. Agile is not a destination, but rather a journey and I look forward to this journey we are on.

 Take a look at the video from wave 1.

Taking Agile to the next Level

Over the last 6 months I have been ratcheting up my communication on the benefits and success of Agile within my organization. We have been slowly working on it since November, but haven’t had much traction. In late May I decide to grab a hold of the steering wheel and push on the Agile gas.

Well, we must have been doing a good job at it that management is ready to take the jump and has given me and a few others the permission to roll Agile out to a larger group.

Choo, Choo, here comes the Agile train! Man, am I stoked!

The first thing I knew I had to do was bring in an expert that could help us develop a rollout plan and get us headed down the right path. After a week of phone call interviews to experts in the field of Agile, we decided to bring in Dean Leffingwell. Dean knocked our socks off during the interview and it felt like a perfect fit for our organization. .

Last week was the first official 2 day visit to Deere for Dean. Our goal of the visit was to start the tipping process, meet and convince management, excite and answer question for employees and get us started down the agile path. Mission accomplished!

So over the new few months I thought I would start blogging about rolling out Agile at Scale.

Here are a few pictures from Dean’s visit and attendes from the embedded group during my agile speach I made.

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