SPA Conference session: Pitching Agile

One-line description:Convince your management team that agile is the way to go. Do you have what it takes?
Session format: Workshop (75 mins) [read about the different session types]
Abstract:While it's usually (though of course not always) straightforward to make a convincing case for agile development to developers and project managers, taking the message to senior management teams is another matter altogether. Convincing CEOs, heads of marketing and finance and other senior business leaders that iterative development, product backlogs and story points add up to something on which they can bet the business is, to put it bluntly, hard, and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

In this workshop we'll adopt a "Dragon's Den" format in which four groups will compete to impress management teams pairing four pre-appointed senior executives (the "Truly Difficult Bastards") and four assistants (merely "Difficult Bastards"). Each group gets three shots at preparing, refining and pitching a short presentation, before the Bastards retire, confer, and select the most convincing pitch. This will be presented to all, prompting further comments from the Bastards and an open exchange with the group.

This will all be fast, furious, entertaining and challenging, but we'll all aim to come out of the workshop with better answers to the awkward questions that we encounter when we try to sell agile outside the confines of a development organisation.

Audience background:Anyone interested or involved in moving agile beyond the scope of a team and into a larger organisation.
Benefits of participating:Learn to make the pitch for the benefits and costs of agile to an organisation.
Materials provided:Cards and writing material to support brainstorming during pitch preparation.
Process:The session has a maximum of 20 attendees (in addition to four pre-selected Truly Difficult Bastards and the two session leaders). Four of the 20 pair with the Truly Difficult Bastards to form four management teams - collectively the Difficult Bastards - the other 16 forming four groups of 4.

After an introduction, the session works as three iterations of preparation and pitching. Teams have ten minutes to work on two PowerPoint slides (maximum) outlining their pitch. There's then a five-minute round of pitching - each team to a pair of Difficult Bastards simultaneously, one in each of the four corners of the room.

Following a pitch and comments from the DBs, the team returns to another 10 minutes of preparation. The DB pairs rotate between teams - a different pair hears successive pitches from each team.

Following the last pitch, the DBs leave the room to confer briefly and select one pitch for presentation to the whole group, while those in the room take a deep breath and wait anxiously... The DBs return, the selected pitch is presented to the group, and the Truly DBs as a panel present their responses.
Detailed timetable:00:00 - 00:05 Introduction
00:05 - 00:15 Preparation 1
00:15 - 00:20 Pitch 1
00:20 - 00:30 Preparation 2
00:30 - 00:35 Pitch 2
00:35 - 00:45 Preparation 3
00:45 - 00:50 Pitch 3
00:50 - 00:55 DB deliberation, group debrief
00:55 - 00:60 Selected pitch
00:60 - 00:65 DB response
00:65 - 00:75 Group discussion on selected pitch
Outputs:The four teams pitches collected and presented on the SPA conference Wiki, with a summary of the questions and responses raised by the Truly Difficult Bastards
History:First presentation of this session
1. David Harvey
Teams and Technology Limited
2. Peter Marks