At the last meeting in Oslo Lean Meetup Geoff Watts talked about BTs transition to agility. The most memorable part to me was when BT transformed a huge, waterfall type project with a delivery schedule measured in years into an agile project. The project set out to convert all BT customers to a new network with a brand new set of services. The new objective was simpler: Deliver one service to one customer in eight weeks.
The common approach when organizations undertake a huge project is to try and deliver everything in one big bang. That trick never works, and BT was exceptional for realizing it. The eight weeks goal was indeed reached, not with one, but with four customers. This might not sound like a lot, but after several years with nothing to show for it, this is a huge win for any project.
How did BT facilitate the transition to agile? The order from up high was “everyone needs to deliver something every 90 days.” In order to achieve this, all projects start a ninety day delivery cycle with a three day off site meeting with all stakeholders to find out how the project can deliver something of value within the required time. Surprisingly, according to Watts, it almost always works.
An interesting lesson is that a shorter delivery time means that the projects have to focus on doing less at a time. Yet projects report a greater sense of progress. In essence, they slow down to speed up.
BT is a huge organization with lots of cultural legacy. If they can deliver huge infrastructure projects in increments of no more than ninety days, why can’t you?