Driving Agile Change: A Slack Takeover with Mary Poppendieck | TechWell

Driving Agile Change: A Slack Takeover with Mary Poppendieck

Mary Poppendieck

Thought leaders throughout the software community are taking over the TechWell Hub for a day to introduce themselves, answer questions, and engage in conversations.

Mary Poppendieck is a writer, speaker, and coauthor of the book Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit. @Mary Poppendieck presided over our most recent Slack takeover to discuss all things agile.

Implementing Structural Change

“How do you go about getting business leaders to buy into integrating the separate silos of dev, ops, and business to actually work together?” —@Tom Stiehm

Poppendieck said that structural change is very difficult.

“Lou Gerstner, the person who turned around IBM, said that the most difficult thing was to change the culture of people who had been sheltered from market realities by an extremely successful company,” she said. “Turning around the company was like taking a lion raised in captivity and teaching it how to survive in the wild.”

How Coding Has Evolved

“I hear you were a software engineer in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. What was coding like back then?” —@Kelly M

Poppendieck said that in the ’60s, most coding was done in assembly language.

“Note that many of the waterfall practices stemmed from the fact that code was significantly more difficult to debug at this level,” she said. “On the other hand, there were no intermediaries between 'programmers' and the people/machines who used the code.”

In the ’70s, higher-level programming languages emerged.

“Minicomputers replaced mainframes, and software began to be used in engineering as well as for business process automation,” Poppendieck said. “I worked in engineering computing, which was night-and-day different from software done in the IT department.

“By the ’80s, we had PCs (with the first apps on top of an operating system) and fourth-generation languages. It was thought that programmers would no longer be necessary.”

To that, user @Tom Stiehm replied, “Funny, we are still looking for ways to make programmers no longer necessary. What do you think drives us to focus on finding silver bullets?”

Poppendieck responded, “Silver bullets are chased by people who do not understand the details of the problem but are desperate for a solution. Not appreciating the challenges (and not wanting to accept the difficulties), people look for the solution that is simple, cheap, and wrong.” 

Agile Transformation vs. Digital Transformation

“What are some successful adoption patterns you've seen for organizational change? For example, one change I'm currently focused on is moving from separate dev/test silos with testing at the end to devops mindset and building quality in.” —@Samer Adra

Poppendieck suggested that this thinking is too narrow.

“Organizational change—especially when it is about improving digital technology—should start at the overall business level, not the technology level,” she said. “There is a big difference between an agile transformation and a digital transformation. Agile transformations are about improving technology. Digital transformations are about changing the organization so it can compete more effectively in the digital world.”

Read the full transcript of Mary Poppendieck’s takeover here.

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March 18, 2020

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