Big Bang and Phased approaches – How to do it, and what to expect?

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Last updated on
31st May, 2022
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17th Aug, 2018
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Big Bang and Phased approaches – How to do it, and what to expect?

The three most popular frameworks for organizational transformation or projects (having multiple teams) are Big Bang, Phased, and a blend of these two approaches.

While Agile itself advocates phased delivery for faster realization of Return on Investment and continuous feedback, it is surprising that to get there, one of the popular approaches is Big Bang implementation approach. I have been in both type of transformations and my experiences (both personal and professional) with both are given below.

I have a daughter with terrible eating habits, and I wanted to introduce her to new food, and that’s when I considered the two approaches in my real life scenario.

How Big Bang worked in my project:

Big Bang – Here all changes are implemented in the bang. All tool changes and process changes everything go together, and often this comes with a lot of confusion and resistance on the team floor.

I was a team member when my team transformed through a Big Bang methodology. Our Agile coach gave us a 2 days’ crash course on Agile and Scrum, and one-day training on ALM tool and its discipline, and we started Scrum. This change brought in a sudden sense of insecurity and fear among us, we were scared of failing. We were all talking and complaining. But we knew that the change had to be accepted since there was no fallback option. In a few weeks, we were in Agile –and we were using the tools effectively, this could be because the customer had a high focus on them, but it worked. Many still complained and looked for opportunities to compare or fallback.

Big bang
This went on till we started comparing ourselves with other teams which were non-agile. We realized that other teams around us wanted to be like us, they wished for the exposure that we were getting, and the speed at which we did stuff. Our place was suddenly the fast-moving and happening place with noise all the time, customer demos, calls and meetings, whiteboards and improvement plans. And from there it only went on to become better and with our team getting VCons and other infrastructural and visible changes, things just got better.

How it worked with my daughter:

Trying to convince her to try different foods normally came back with ‘Yuk’ or ‘No’. One day, I told her that from now she has to eat regular food like everybody else, and there would be nothing special for her. To her 5-year-old mind, it sounded more like wartime, and she took the challenge well. She starved herself for 2 days and finally, she won.
When your stakeholder decides to not cooperate, it is tough to get things moving, and if it is time-critical and you have a lot at stake, you might not be able to take tough calls.
Bigbang v/s phased
How Phased approach worked in my project:
I was also part of a team which did phased transformation. This was a newly formed team which was just starting its journey in the project. We started 2 weeks’ sprints with just a daily stand-up and Ad hoc assignment of stories from a well-kept backlog which was managed by the PO. No training was conducted, except a 30-minute training on the ALM tool essentials.

In this phased implementation approach, we (few people who knew Agile) observed the team and based on their feedback introduced ceremonies. Team members brought in the role called scrum master (though they just called him a lead for all issues and coordination). The team members were all new and they required guidance before they could commit to any story and also to confirm if what they did was right, by the end of the first sprint we scheduled in Product Grooming and demo sessions. Sprint planning and Sprint backlog came only in the 3rd sprint, till then the team just took all they could.

Phased implementation process
Retro was again suggested by the team not as a regular meeting, but as a monthly meeting to see what we should do differently, as the teams now saw that their suggestions were acted on, they were more than happy to suggest a formal meeting to have best practices added in. And all of a sudden in just 3 sprints we had all elements of Scrum. Team members were driven and self-organizing and they never wanted to go back to any traditional model for project execution.

How Phased approach worked with my daughter:

I started really small – tomatoes on pizza, and she liked it; then potatoes with rice, she liked it, cucumber salad also was welcome. But the problem with phased implementation plan at my home is that it went with a high degree of resistance and blackmailing, she knew that she had a fallback option. But she was not starving and that was a relief. But I really never managed to add much to her menu. She had her staples and even after almost 2 months, we just have around 5-6 more veggies added into the list.

In both cases, my teams became Agile – At first with a lot of resistance but they were the perfect textbook Agile and they knew the whys and the direction. In the second, teams learned from their mistakes and brought in best practices until they were Agile. Here, only a push in the right direction by Agile experts/scrum master was required.

We always knew the direction in both cases, it was just about who drove and at what pace.

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Tanisha Joseph

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Over 11 years of experience in Agile projects. Experienced Agile first hand as a Team member, Business Analyst, Scrum Master and Agile coach. Through her career she has been a part of projects in Banking, Tourism, Media and Networking domains. Strong advocate of being Agile in Agile projects, and experimenting to find whats best for the team.