When Scaling Meets Collective Agile Experience, Transformation Happens
You may know Agile Coach and Lead Consultant, Nicole Spence-Goon, from her “3 Factors for Agile Scaling Success”, which lays out the foundation for starting an Agile scaling journey. Nicole’s own journey with Excella began in 2013, when she stumbled on the DC Scrum User Group. She found herself drawn to the community of Excellians and other Agile thought leaders who were active in sharing their knowledge and experience to enrich the group. After joining Excella 4 years ago, her interest in Scaling thrived after working with colleagues on the creation of The Manifesto for Scaling Agility. The collaborative manifesto serves as “a guide to Agile at scale that reflects the collective experience of Agile practitioners at Excella and across the Agile community.”
In her experience, scaling projects were often “very command and control, while still having an Agile moniker to it,” something she found troubling as these qualities contradict core Agile principles. When she heard about the opportunity to develop the manifesto, she joined in to help “get back to principles while scaling.” Nicole shared more about the group’s goal:
We wanted to align all the teams, but at the same time give them space to individually grow as teams. Some frameworks don’t allow this. Instead [they] tend to be regimented…that [structure] doesn’t necessarily guarantee success because there are missing opportunities for each team to experiment and share learnings across the group of teams.
The opportunity to collaborate and leverage collective experiences is one of the aspects of life at Excella that she enjoys the most.
Leverage Visioning to Align Teams with Project Goals
In her 4 years at Excella, Nicole has worked on a range of projects, varying in scope and solution. Across projects, she’s observed that teams often work without fully understanding their project’s core requirements, stakeholder expectations, or project value. When teams are not aligned on shared vision, teams can lose focus on what functionality is critical and can deliver a product that deliver features that are nice to have but don’t necessarily address customer needs. The practice of “Visioning” solves these problems. Empowering leaders to create a shared vision statement keeps employees and stakeholders focused and aligned on the key product features and their importance.
Visioning is something Nicole first brought to an Excella project in 2018. While conducting the initial interviews to understand the needs, she found the product owner struggling to articulate what her needs were and why the project mattered. Nicole collaborated with the product owner to help clarify what the vision was for the product the team was developing. She started with discussing why this product would be better than what they already had. Visioning enabled the product owner to communicate and advocate for the team and push the project forward to final delivery.
A Leader in Inclusion, Mentorship, and Advocacy
Outside of work, Nicole leads and organizes multiple groups that aim to provide visibility for underrepresented groups in the Agile community. Nicole is an active organizer of DC Women in Agile and a core team member of Agile Alliance’s Agile in Color. She is also part of Excella’s IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity) team. Amplifying the voices of women, increasing diversity in representation, and providing more access to resources is important to her because “as a Black woman, these are dimensions that define who [she is].” Her goal is to “help others like [herself] to know that they are seen and heard.”
In her perspective, there are many tangible ways to address this issue. To name a few:
- Make space at conferences for new voices
- Provide opportunities for speaking engagements
- Connect with people in various groups
Since the start of the pandemic, she has invited many nationally known speakers to speak to DC Women in Agile. Noted speakers include Agile Retrospective author Diane Larsen and engineer Melissa Daley who created her own automated requirements product. Additionally, she also is excited about the Agile in Color “Share Your Story” initiative, which shares the stories of Black Agilists and their unique Agile journeys.
Since conferences and speaking engagements are a large facet of the Agile community, teaching and preparing Agilist to share their ideas in a forum is key. That is why Nicole offers to be a mentor to new speakers in the DC Women in Agile group looking to share their thought leadership with others. Spending time helping speakers “formulate their thoughts and create more impactful submissions” is deeply gratifying and exciting work that she is proud of.
What Agilists Need to Know in 2022
Nicole believes that Agile will play a role in the growing AI market in 2022. She shares that:
Artificial intelligence is what everyone is talking about. People only think about data science and models, but Agile has its place in AI. In order for the models to come to fruition, you still need some kind of project framework to make it happen.
Our Innovation team has been spending time developing Excella’s Agile approach to AI. While adapting Agile approaches for AI is complex, our new approach to AI, Rapid AnalytiX, leverages the benefits of the Agile methodology while creating space for flexibility and growth.
Where to Find our Innovator