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Thursday, August 9 • 14:00 - 14:30
When Agile and Lean Converge – The IT Transformation at American Electric Power (Joe Astolfi, Gregory Dartt) POPULAR

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Many organizations are using agile frameworks to enhance their solutions delivery. Others are leveraging lean to improve their processes and practices. But how many organizations have combined both a large agile adoption and an enterprise lean initiative to become a flexible, responsive organization built on continuous improvement? And what happens when the implementations of the agile and lean practices conflict?
Joe Astolfi and Greg Dartt are members of the Agility Services and Coaching Team at American Electric Power (AEP), a Fortune 500 utility company. They will take you on a journey of AEP’s agile adoption in IT over the past 9 years, and its convergence with AEP's enterprise-wide lean implementation. You will learn how the logical union between the two disciplines turned into a battle of philosophies at the team level. As tensions rose between the agile and lean experts, ways to resolve the conflict were required and developed for the continued growth and success of the organization. And on the positive side, you will learn how the implementation of lean greatly increased the adoption of agility across IT.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Learn where the agile and lean implementations conflicted at AEP, and the techniques used for resolving those conflicts
  • Understand which lean practices were especially damaging to agile values and principles, and how the heightened tensions were diffused
  • Learn how the agile adoption across IT was accelerated by leveraging lean practices, specifically a lean management system
  • Explore the way lean language made agility more accessible to management and business partners
  • Identify ideas you might try at your organization to gain greater momentum in your agile transformation
View the Experience Report

Lessons Learned from Your Experience:
  • Even though agile has its roots in lean, there is a divergence of practices and implementations that create the potential for tension and conflict. In our case, the lean consultants wanted to see standard work implemented at the team level, creating visual process adherence and visual process performance measures for management. I, and my agile colleagues, resisted the notion of penetrating teams with standard work to protect the desire for self-organization and innovation. We executed Kaizen events staffed by team members to work through the differences and arrive at workable solutions, and then the solutions were piloted by a subset of chosen teams before they were proliferated across all teams.
  • The lean consultants wanted us to visualize the Scrum team's plans, and their progress along those plans (which took the form of Release Burn Up charts). They also wanted to highlight the abnormal condition when the team was no longer 'on plan', and create a discussion with management on how they would get back on plan. With Scrum teams, the plan emerges, and the plan changes based on emergent factors in and around the team. This created some of the highest tension and misunderstanding between the agile and lean experts, and we needed significant discussions and shared understanding to come to resolution. Unfortunately, there were winners and losers in this fight.
  • Pairing the agile transformation with a larger enterprise initiative created additional momentum for our agile adoption. Our CIO volunteered to be one of the first areas in the corporation to embrace the lean initiative. We tied our agile adoption to that larger initiative by marketing Scrum as our implementation of lean in IT, and value stream mapped our process from IT demand to delivery of solutions. When the to-be value stream map was created, it resulted in every IT team schedule to utilize agile frameworks to deliver to our business partners.
  • Using common language made agility more accessible to management and business partners across the enterprise. Since the agile transformation was being mostly led from the IT group, other areas did not know or understand the language or practices. However, when we began to speak in terms being used by our enterprise lean initiative, the management and business partners more readily understood our new way of working. It helped create shared understanding between the Scrum teams and other parts of the organization.


avatar for Joe Astolfi

Joe Astolfi

Director, Agile, NiSource
Joe Astolfi is the Director, Agile at NiSource, where he works with others to be great leaders, increase their agility, and find joy in their work. He is also the Vice-Chair and a Board Member of the Central Ohio Agile Association, and an adjunct professor at Miami University. Joe's... Read More →

Thursday August 9, 2018 14:00 - 14:30 PDT
Torrey Pines Room 1, 2, & 3