Planning for a Successful Agile Kickoff
Properly kicking off a pilot Agile transformation project is crucial to its success. You're asking everyone involved: sponsor, executive team, pilot team and stakeholders, to go on a journey with you for the premiere of something brand new, never seen before in the organization.
It is a mistake not to realize that this is high-stakes showmanship. With the stakes this high, your agenda must be finely tuned. It must cover who, what, where, when, why, and how. Your audience, even those participating, must leave your kickoff meeting knowing your pilot will succeed because you told them it will. You will provide a vision and a high-level roadmap to follow to success. So get started and welcome everyone to the kickoff. If you have a way to liven things up with props, that is an excellent idea. Remember, people love a show and a good show generates excitement and enthusiasm.
Get everyone engaged from the beginning. Once you've got them, start telling your story. It's always a great idea to have your sponsor open and close the kickoff meeting. The sponsor will engage your audience in the vision. At a minimum, the sponsor will singlehandedly cover the what, when, and why. By handling those crucial topics in the kickoff, your sponsor will not only answer those questions literally, but also demonstrate executive support, both visibly and physically. The higher the sponsor’s level in the organization, the more impact the message will have.
This demonstration can go a long way to prevent subversion or sabotage from sources both inside and outside your team. You can knock out many birds with this one stone.
Your sponsor should explain what the pilot project is. They should also cover:
Why this specific project was selected
The criteria used in the selection
Any risks that have been identified
What mitigation steps have already been taken
This is pretty straightforward. That's the estimated project timeline. This is the kickoff, so be sure to provide your best projections of an end date and properly set expectations for what will be delivered.
This is where the sponsor talks about your Agile framework. All good pilot projects start with a fairly by-the-book Agile implementation. Now is the time to explain why that's a great way to start. Be sure to include information on how the team will be empowered to flex or adapt Agile to better suit their needs. This section of your kickoff should cover why Agile was selected for the company and diffuse any concerns about a rigid implementation of Agile.
Now is the time to introduce the pilot team.
Be sure to introduce each individual, their background, skills, and why they were chosen for the team. They'll be the pioneers, so don't soft-sell them to your audience. The goal is to show that the team members were strategically selected to ensure success.
Since your pilot team will be co-located for the pilot, let everyone know where they'll be. Be sure to tell everyone that a key Agile tenet is transparency, and they're welcome to stop by any time to see what the team is doing and how the pilot is going.
This is a great crescendo on which to close.
Have your sponsor reiterate why the executive team has chosen to try Agile. He should ask for the support of everyone present and welcome them to come to him with any questions or concerns.
Now that your premiere has been executed, you and your team have set up a great foundation for a successful pilot.
It is an unfortunate reality that, in the typical organization, about one-third of the people either cannot or will not be able to successfully make the transition to Agile. One goal of the pilot is to identify these individuals as quickly as possible and determine the required strategy to avoid requiring their support or involvement. While their lack of support will eventually need to be addressed, the pilot program is not the appropriate time or place to tackle such a large challenge.