Meet Dipesh Pala

As an Agile Capability Lead, Dipesh Pala pursues his passion for helping organisations of all sizes to incrementally adopt the benefits of Agile practices. He has a long history in software delivery having worked within a variety of industries as a programmer, business systems analyst, iteration manager and project manager. Over the last five years, Dipesh has helped many project teams as an on-the-ground Agile consultant and mentor.

Dipesh is speaking on ‘Unleashing the full potential of your Agile teams’ at the upcoming Agile Encore event, 2 October 2014 Sydney. We sat down with Dipesh in advance of his presentation at Agile Encore to talk all things Agile.

What was your Agile ‘A-ha!’ moment?

My ‘A-ha!’ moment came when I saw a Product Owner at IAG NZ who was overjoyed by seeing their idea turn into a ready-for-production feature in a matter of days (instead of several months). The Product Owner’s happiness brushed onto the development team, which was a huge morale booster. Also, the fact that the team saw themselves making progress in meaningful work changed their outlook on things. The Agile way of working revitalised this team, making them more engaged and productive. That example solidified my belief that there is more to Agile than just delivering solutions to customers.

What is the best implementation of an Agile practice you’ve seen?

This is like asking to pick a favourite son! Compared to where the industry overall is in the Agile journey, the implementation of Agile at Suncorp is exemplary. IBM is one of Suncorp’s major strategic IT partners.

Almost every complexity and challenge was thrown into the mix when this partnership started – challenges with the regularity bodies, cultural challenges, geographic distances, low morale issues, technological challenges, the need to rapidly scale up and down – the works! All of these challenges have been overcome, and now the teams in the Claims area have become the global poster-child for ‘How to do Agile at scale’. Whether you walk the floor in Brisbane, Sydney or Shanghai, you will not notice any difference in the project room setups or in the teams’ ways of working. These guys make distributed Agile look so simple. And on the technical side, they moved from being able to do just one production release every 6 weeks, to now doing over 250 releases per year! Instead of IT being a blocker for the business, the business is asking IT to slow down. The achievements in the IBM-Suncorp Claims area are simply remarkable.

What has been your favourite moment from a past Agile Australia conference?

My favourite moment has to be when I delivered the presentation titled ‘Easy Ways to Break up!’ a couple of years ago. The audience was buzzing with energy and they made the whole experience so fun. I made a deal with them that every time they hear me say the word ‘excuse’ during my talk, they will yell out the word ‘opportunity’. I’ll never forget when the entire theatre was screaming ‘opportunity!’ every five minutes. It’s the small touches like this that makes the Agile Australia conference unique and exciting.

What is the strangest situation you’ve applied an Agile principle to?

Don’t laugh, but my wife and I have a ‘Story Wall’ that we update on a daily basis. This helps us prioritise every major activity in our lives by having sometimes difficult but constructive discussions around where we should dedicate our time and effort. It helps us align our priorities to a common goal. The best part of this daily ritual is that we get an opportunity to appreciate what each other is doing (or sacrificing).

What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting with Agile?

Always remember: Culture over Strategy over Tactics. When implementing Agile for the first time, many people do not realise that the most value comes from the right mindset and culture, not practices. Tactics should come last. Doing Agile (practices) may offer some benefits, but being Agile (having right culture/mindset) will offer benefits that are at a much larger scale.

What is your definition of Agile?

You would expect an Agile Coach to be able to give you a nice, succinct answer but here’s what I say about Agile:

  • Agile will not just let us play the game… it enables us to change it.
  • Agile will not just help us deliver projects… it enables us to deliver value.
  • Agile will not just help us recycle old concepts… it enables us to bring new ideas to life.
  • Agile will not constrain us with boundaries… it enables us to innovate and create.
  • Agile will not let us assume things are set in stone… it enables us to question them.
  • Agile will not allow us to work in isolation… it enables us to collaborate.
  • Agile will not allow us to be discouraged by failure…it enables us to be motivated by it.
  • Agile will not allow us to be content with anything…it enables us to continuously improve.

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