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Q&A with Prateek Singh

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Prateek Singh, Independant Agile Coach & Head of Learning and Development @ProKanban.Org.

How could you describe your career path in a few words?  

I started my career as a developer writing payroll code in Delphi. After multiple years of developing software using everything from C# to Python to Javascript, I transitioned into team leadership and management. The Scrum Master role was my first foray into this. As the organization evolved, we moved into more of a flow system and I started leading a large Kanban team. I spent a few years in management as a Manager and a Director of Engineering. During those years, I spent a good amount of time setting up Agile systems. I realized over time that managing work through flexible processes was a large part of managing organizations. This is why I moved into Agile coaching and did so for a few years as Director of Business Agility. Currently, I am an Independent Agile Coach and the Head of Learning and Development at ProKanban.Org. 

How do you think agile practices have transformed companies over the past two years?  

There have been both positive and negative transformations for companies. For many companies, teams have become more nimble and able to deliver outcomes for their customers. For others, where large Agile frameworks have been imposed without regard for the context, teams have been forced to take a step backward. Agility has definitely gained ground at the team level and transformed performance. It has helped companies think in new, more customer-centric ways. When the same agility is imposed at higher levels, or a lift and shift of processes is performed, the overall company suffers. We have seen a lot of teams with varying levels of agility in the same organization. Painting them with the same brush often means regressing to the mean. Companies are getting better at noticing this and agility at scale has slowly become more pragmatic over the last two years. 

What successful cases of agile transformations have you had the opportunity to observe that have particularly stood out to you?  

The most successful agile transformation that I was part of was at Ultimate Software. The transformation started in the mid-2000s and lasted till 2020, a year after the company was sold for a multi-billion dollar deal. I would like to think the agile ways of working had a hand to play in taking the company from 12$/share in 2005 to 331$/share sale price in 2019. What was great about this tansformation was the willingness of management to experiment, try things, and use data to drive decisions. This led to many patterns that are not common Agile practices, but greatly helped with agility 1) Early switch from Scrum to Kanban (2008) when Scrum was proving ineffective in the context. 2) Large teams, sizes ranging between 15 and 40 were the norm. 3) Team leads (erstwhile Scrum Masters) were made managers and given positional power to help the team implement changes.  4) Successful attempts at scaling via home-grown methods, since scaling frameworks did not exist in the mid-2000s The success of the transformation can also be measured by the fact that the company ranked among the top 3 best places to work in the US almost every year. 

Will agile practices continue to generate interest? What challenges do you see in the context of deploying these practices? 

Agile practices will definitely continue to generate interest. They will have to become less formulaic and 'by the book' if Agile has to thrive. We have folks at different parts of the adoption curve now. Some folks are just starting to get into Agile and the existing practices and methods will work for them. Some folks have been doing agile for a few years and looking to see how it can benefit them further. They will need expand and look beyond 'traditional Agile' to pull in practices. Then there are folks who have been doing this for decades. They will need to figure out how to adapt Agile to the rapidly changing environment. In other words, making sure Agile itself is agile. Making sure we can serve all three of these markets is an interesting challenge when deploying these practices. Especially when all three exist in the same organization's context AI enables a developer to create an entire app, along with tests and deployment pipelines in a day or two. This means the focus will shift more and more to product-centric thinking. How does Agile, which most people think of as a 'developer thing', manage to change that image and start talking more about product and business agility? Those are the challenges ahead of us.  


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