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agileIn his role as Director of Agile Transformation at Abbott Diabetes Care, Rod Mittag’s charter is to help evolve the organization’s structures, policies, and procedures to support more Agile ways of working. In practice, this means serving as an organizational change agent and helping teams progress along their individual journeys. Early on in the company’s Agile journey, he focused on the basics, such as introducing teams to foundational Agile practices like working in sprints and writing Stories. As they developed proficiency in these skills, he shifted focus to new challenges, including helping teams orient around a key, company-wide strategic objective of increasing predictability.

Mittag teamed up with Abbott Diabetes Care’s Atlassian Managed Services provider, Isos Technology, to identify metrics that would help the company better understand predictability and to create reporting in Jira Software and eazyBI that would create visibility into those metrics. While that part of the process was somewhat straightforward, winning over the participating teams was a bit more complex. They were concerned that increased transparency might result in unrealistic pressure from management to hit arbitrary, output-focused milestones. For instance, a key part of the framework for understanding predictability is velocity–if the data indicated they were averaging 50 Story points per Sprint, would they be asked to increase that to 60, 80, or even 100?

Recognizing that Agile is more than a set of practices, it’s a cultural shift that entails winning over the hearts and minds of people. Mittag saw the teams’ concerns as an opportunity for them to participate more actively in the Agile journey. He encouraged the company’s Scrum Masters not to hide from these challenges, but instead to dig in and have meaningful discussions, centered around topics like why is predictability a goal, how company and customers benefit from it, what might be standing in the way of teams working more predictability, and what teams  need to improve predictability.

As Abbott Diabetes Care progresses in their Agile journey, these pivotal conversations have helped the teams build trust in the process and become more transparent. Perhaps more importantly, they are learning to trust and believe in themselves and adopt a new mindset around data. Team by team and node by node, what started as an effort to better understand predictability through dashboards and metrics is helping Abbott Diabetes Care make the cultural shift necessary to truly embrace Agile.

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