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November 6, 2017

How to hire an Agile Consultant?


This post is a sequel to my previous post titled, "Why Agile Certification?" - that was aimed at organisations to help them figure out why they are asking for Agile Certification as a requirement in hiring candidates?
In this post I share a few techniques that should help you as an organisation to discover that right consultant to help you in your endeavors.

So what are they? Well, before even getting into it, let me make it clear that to gain mileage out of it, there is a hard bit of preparation that you should do to help differentiate genuine talent over faked ones. There ain't an easy way to success.

The Preparation

If you've not tried an Agile method at all in your organisation, pick those gifted books in the subject and start reading. That won't be enough, so you should

Step 1: attend conferences, participate in meetups, ask questions, seek answers.

Step 2: try things out at small level in a project or two to get a taste for it by making one change at a time.

Result: Along the way, you'll make a lot of mistakes, have more confusions and go through a lot of frustrations. Stop not. Iterate over steps 1 and 2 mentioned above, going back and forth for sometime. That is show learning happens. It is the hard way, but is well worth your time and efforts.

If you've been doing this for a quarter or two, without engaging any outside consultant, you as an organisation have saved a ton of money and escaped the possibility of a disaster that the wrong hire could have caused your organisation. Seriously, I've seen this happen.

A fake Agile consultant (albeit Agile certified), who is entrusted with Agile transformation, can cause more damage to the organisation by altering its structure without any rhyme and reason in the name of Agile process. The damage can be so severe that it may leave many affected in the organisation into believing that Agile is just another market fad. I've listened to this kind of pain points at ground zero in my consulting gigs.

On an optimistic note, if you've managed to hire at best an average Joe as Certified Agile Consultant, he would not have not taken you beyond this level, that you've accomplished all by yourself.

The Battlefield

Now assuming that you've reached this level of maturity, below are some things you can try out as part of your hiring process of that Golden Agile Consultant you wish you have on-board.

Discovery Test: One of the often overlooked thing is not doing homework about the candidate. A good homework on his/her works could likely give you good to great insights. If you're lucky you've probably spotted the Golden talent, that you wouldn't want to miss.

Acid Test: Ask a few high level questions on the Agile process/ceremonies. You should have an acceptable answer in mind for these kind of questions.

Acid Test: Ask specific questions based on your previous experience of a particular Agile ceremony. You should have an acceptable answer in mind for these kind of questions.

Exploratory Test: Prepare use-case scenarios well in advance, based on one or many things that you tried as part of experimenting Agile in one or more small teams. Present it and ask questions based on it to the potential hire.

Exploratory Test: Have a conversation on one of the hotly debated topic in the market. You can ask something as simple as, "What is your opinion on Agile Certification?". Look out for opinions, data, whims and fancies. You get to learn about an individual better in this kind of question, should you be willing.

A few side-notes that you need to bear in your mind as part of your hiring process for better mileage:

  • Have a conversation, rather than the routine Question-Answer (aka Interviewer-Interviewee) pattern of interacting with your potential hire.
  • Count on the positives and the lessons you are learning as part of your conversation with the potential.
  • Watch out for the negatives, and make no assumptions. Test, clarify and try getting more context and test again to better your judgement.
  • You should not apply all the techniques in one session with your potential hire. DON'T EVER DO THAT. Every session should be well thought of and subsequent sessions with the potential should fill the gaps from previous one.
Note: I am a fanboy of doing similar stuff even when hiring for development team talent (be it a Developer, Business Analyst, Quality Analyst, or a Product Manager).

Parting Thoughts

Guess why I titled the previous section as "The Battlefield'? You're not fighting against the potential hire. That is what fools do. Rather, you are fighting for that right talent to be on-boarded your side. In it lies your strength.

The best analogy is how you go about picking the apples you want to buy in the store from a shelf. You take care not to pick the bad apples and do everything in your might to pick real good ones, for the money you pay. Apply the same philosophy in your hiring to cherish the results.
An interview is not a filtration process.It is neither a selection process.It is a combination of both filtration (setting aside bad apples) and selection (picking up good apples) by way of discovery and learning. 
Feel free to share what worked for you and what failed you, as part of your hiring, in the comments section below. I am all ears for your experience..