At any given time, The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) can have up to 450 active projects under construction at a cost of about $3 billion dollars. High level stakeholders include legislators and other elected officials who often seek project updates such as progress reports, completion dates, and cost estimates. Because of complexity of projects, stakeholders were not able to receive simple answers without multiple sources consulting one another over the course of two to three days. Project data was compiled in a single, comprehensive archive making it extremely difficult for dissemination while causing heightened frustration across departments. This was just one of the many fundamental hurdles TDOT faced when they partnered with The Braintrust Consulting Group to implement Agile.
Braintrust Consulting Group conducted training, coaching and periodic assessments of the Information Technology Division (IT) to determine its suitability for Agile methodology adoption. The IT division is responsible for computer application systems development and maintenance for TDOT. The division performs duties pertaining to the direction, planning, coordination and management of the department’s computerized information resources. Improvements needed to be made in order to better meet the needs of TDOT businesses.
Across the IT organization, there were obstacles directly affecting productivity, efficiency, group interoperability, coordination and communication. The major themes of challenges were as follows: transparency and visibility, workflow coordination, management and leadership, culture, roles, testing and technical debt.
1. Groups within the division expressed misunderstandings regarding project commitments as well as a lack of team engagement and communication involving decision-making.
2. A lack of alignment with all teams led to unclear project visions, goals and priorities across departments.
3. Groups struggled to understand roles, areas of responsibilities and even how to communicate with each other.
4. Meetings proved ineffective and lacked focus while the frequency of reporting rarely aligned with the pace of delivery.
5. TDOT IT division needed Agile skills and knowledge to shore up core operational practices, resolve obstructive leadership styles, and improve metrics, communication, and workflow coordination.
The Braintrust Consulting Group conducted a series of retrospective workshops with participants from across the IT organization. Groups voted and established top areas of concern and needs of improvement. To address the most prominent concerns and areas of improvement, TDOT participated in private training for application development teams and operation teams. This customized training was a blend of Kanban and Scrum essentials. To supplement private training workshops, ScrumMasters and Product owners attended Braintrust’s Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner classes and division leadership attended Certified Agile Leader® classes through Braintrust’s Center for Agile Leadership®.
Once the teams had the necessary skills and technical knowledge, they turned to Braintrust for more in-depth implementation assistance. For approximately two years, The Braintrust Consulting Group provided ongoing coaching to help the TDOT team identify and break through roadblocks, facilitate meetings, and steer an overall cultural shift.
Bi-monthly over the course of three days, TDOT’s dedicated Braintrust Coach would visit and facilitate workshops, one-on-one meetings, and leadership training. These engagements consistently addressed the work culture and environment of the IT division. Braintrust coached every level of the TDOT team from leaders and stakeholders to ScrumMasters and Product Owners in order to build a culture that supports collaboration and communication. TDOT also utilized tools such as the Team Foundation Server shop configured mostly as a Kanban tool to progress projects, features, and tickets through the Product Owners to the teams.
Today, TDOT has completely evolved as an organization. They have wholeheartedly embraced Agile and continue to seek improvement through innovative solutions and informed decision-making. TDOT’s IT division has relied on Braintrust as a trusted supporter, advocate and guide for positive organizational change.
Scrum has been used as a way for teams to solve problems the IT organization previously struggled with, such as transparency and visibility. Braintrust solidified Agile skills and knowledge in a hands-on approach to real world problems.
Overall, maintenance was reduced by the evolution of strategies for design and testing. IT delivery benefited by improving TDOT Agile alignment with Service Delivery and Support. The entire division improved as Agile leadership was reframed towards facilitation, mentorship, and coaching
“It has been an amazing, very productive method that has made this department pretty much second to none when it comes to DOT.” – John Schroer, Commissioner of Transportation
“If there is anything we work on here, it’s having an Agile culture. Agile is less than a methodology, and more of a set of principles you decide to believe in. Two of them, in particular, are collaboration and transparency”- Joe Kirk, Chief Information Officer
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